The cider mill will be open to visitors on Saturday and Sunday, October 7 and 8, from 10 till 4.
Tommy usually finishes his work by lunchtime, but is happy to receive visitors during the afternoon.
Cider made last autumn will be available to taste and buy.
Admission is free. Donations to the Laurie Engel Fund for Teenage Cancer Trust are welcome.
Tommy the Gypsy Cob from Llanigon, and other members of the Fair Oak Cider team, have several reasons to look pleased with themselves this month.
Tommy has just milled the last load of a record harvest of cider apples; so we’ve made more cider than ever this year. It’s all now bubbling away nicely in the cider house.
We’ve also belatedly heard the news that Fair Oak’s Medium still cider beat all (but one) of the competition at CAMRA’s Beer on the Wye festival in July this year.
Paul Haslam of CAMRA apologised for the news having travelled so slowly: but it finally came to light when CAMRA’s magazine, the Hereford Hopvine, reappeared this month after two years’ absence.
More than 130 cider and perry makers took part in the festival; and Fair Oak came second in the cider category to Gwatkins of Abbey Dore.
Another reason why this year’s cider making has been special at Fair Oak is that several Ukrainian families who are staying nearby have joined in to help.
Vitalii Levytskyi, from Odessa, who is living in Longtown with his wife and three young children, said he wanted to learn all about making cider, and has helped out with the whole process from harvesting to pressing. He said, ‘The Fair Oak cider makers have made me very welcome. And my family liked watching the horse working the mill.’
Open Weekend and Schools Open Day, 2021
After two years of being disrupted by floods and Covid, both of these events went off brilliantly. Three local schools sent groups of pupils to watch Tommy working the mill; and the children, as well as teachers and parents, were fascinated. The cidermakers, Neville Fleet and Ed Budd, were able to explain the process while at the same time working the old press; and the children were able to have a go too.
On the same day we had visits from BBC Hereford and Worcester, as well as Midlands Today; and so their broadcasts helped to swell the number of visitors for the open weekend that followed.
We sold a lot of cider, made new friends, and raised £160 for the Laurie Engel Fund for Teenage Cancer Trust.
Tommy was a star, and seemed quite unfazed by being the centre of so much attention. His owners, Wendy and John Lloyd, working alongside him in the mill, were very proud.
At the annual Big Apple Cider and Perry Trials held at Putley, near Ledbury, in July, Fair Oak came fifth in the Dry Cider category. The event was run on a smaller scale than in normal years; but nevertheless the four producers above us on the list were all from elsewhere in the country, so we consider this to be a serious accolade.
August 2021: A new variety: Whisky Barrel Cider
As an experiment this spring we decided to start maturing some of our medium-dry 2020 cider in an oak whisky barrel. The result is a treat: the cider has taken on a smooth, creamy hint of whisky in addition to the traditional fresh, appley Fair Oak flavour.
It is on sale through our regular customers in 75 cl bottles.
December 2020 A new product: Cider Brandy
We are very excited to be launching Fair Oak Cider Brandy.
The challenge of 2020 has turned into an opportunity. Without the usual summer shows, tastings and open days, like many small producers we were selling less cider this year than normal. But then came an appeal from Mike Hardingham, at the Ludlow Distillery, to turn some of last year’s cider into brandy.
We took a thousand litres from the Golden Valley up to the heights of Shropshire’s Brown Clee Hill, where Mike has his wood-fired still, surrounded by his own vineyards. Above a roaring log fire, the cider was heated in copper and stainless steel chambers and magically transformed into pure alcohol. Then it was poured into oak casks and left to mature.
Gradually the brandy has taken on some of the golden colour of the oak tannin, while still keeping its appley flavour. It has now been bottled as a 40% abv ‘fruit spirit’: a warming cider brandy that we are calling (slightly tongue in cheek) ‘Herefordshire’s answer to Calvados’.
We’re delighted to have been able to combine the 17th-century technology of our mill and Mike’s 21st-century expertise, with such a delicious result.
New bottling room and shop
In spring 2020 we created a bright, spacious new bottling room and shop in the barn above the cider mill. The massive oak baulk that holds the top of the press is a focal point.
The premises are licensed, and customers are welcome to make an appointment to come and (at a safe distance) taste and buy cider here.
Fair Oak Cider was chosen as one of four finalists in the Best Cider Producer category of the Hereford Times Food and Drink Awards.
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