Episode 8 – Bill Bleasdale – Welsh Mountain Cider

ERIC WEST (Intro): This is the Cider Guide Podcast, I’m your host Eric West. Each episode I sit down to chat with a personality from the wide world of cider. Past guests have included Tom Oliver of Oliver’s Cider & Perry, Nicole Leibon of Farnum Hill Ciders, and Andy Brennan of Aaron Burr Cider. Please visit ciderguide.com/podcast for a listing of past episodes, transcripts, RSS feeds, and other useful information. That’s c-i-d-e-r-g-u-i-d-e-dot-com-slash-podcast.

My goal with the Cider Guide Podcast is to interview unique and interesting voices from the world of cider, not just the well-known personalities you’ve already heard from. So keeping with that spirit, joining me for Episode 8 is Bill Bleasdale of Welsh Mountain Cider & Tree Nursery.

Bill Bleasdale of Welsh Mountain Cider

Bill and his wife Chava produce unsulfited, unpasteurized cider made from 100% freshly pressed fruit—no added water, sugar, juice, or other additives. And it’s left to ferment using the native yeasts from the apples. Bill argues that this “real cider” has a complexity of flavor completely unrivalled by more heavily processed ciders, an opinion shared by diehard real cider enthusiasts. Many of the apples used in these Welsh Mountain Ciders are grown on Bill and Chava’s smallholding in mid-Wales, which is situated at about 1200 feet above sea level. Most of the apple and pear trees grown in their tree nursery are on full standard rootstocks—the increased vigor is necessary for fruit trees to survive at such an unusually high altitude for the UK.

Welsh Mountain Cider Vintages

Not only is Bill an industrious cidermaker, orchardist, and nurseryman, he’s also an author and artist. His book How to Grow Apples and Make Cider is now in its 2nd edition. It’s a short, whimsical, illustrated how-to guide to growing apples and making cider, based entirely on Bill’s hands-on experience.

How to Grow Apples and Make Cider [Kindle Edition]

You’ll probably note that this is my longest episode to date, but I couldn’t bring myself to edit it down—Bill and I ended up talking about so many interesting topics that I didn’t want to leave anything out. I sincerely hope that you’ll find it an enjoyable listen. Here’s my conversation with Bill Bleasdale of Welsh Mountain Cider.

Download: 008_Bill_Bleasdale_Welsh_Mountain_Cider [55.0MB, 1:00:07]

ERIC WEST (Outro): To learn more about Welsh Mountain Cider, visit welshmountaincider.com. To order Bill’s book How to Grow Apples and Make Cider, look for the Buy Our Book link at welshmountaincider.com. There’s also a Kindle eBook version available via both amazon.com and amazon.co.uk. If you search for the title of the book—How to Grow Apples and Make Cider—it should appear at the top of the search results. And if you’d like to find Bill on Twitter, follow @Welshapples. That’s twitter.com/Welshapples.

So that wraps up Episode 8. Visit ciderguide.com/8—that’s c-i-d-e-r-g-u-i-d-e-dot-com-slash-the-number-eight—for links to the items mentioned during this interview. And if you’d like to download other episodes or find out more about the podcast, go to ciderguide.com/podcast. That’s c-i-d-e-r-g-u-i-d-e-dot-com-slash-podcast.

I also highly suggest that—wherever you found this podcast, iTunes, Stitcher, at my website, wherever—please take a minute to leave a rating or a review. It helps other cider enthusiasts find the podcast, and encourages them to become regular listeners. I value you as a listener, and if the podcast is meaningful to you, please spread the word to others who might enjoy it just as much as you do.

If you’d like to send me your feedback directly, I’m @ciderguide on Twitter or you can email me at [email protected] That’s e-r-i-c-at-ciderguide-dot-com. Thank you for listening.

Episode 7 – Alan Shapiro – Cider Summit

Download: 007_Alan_Shapiro_Cider_Summit [27.5MB, 30:04]

ERIC WEST (Intro): This is the Cider Guide Podcast, I’m your host Eric West. Each episode I sit down to chat with a personality from the wide world of cider. Past guests have included Tom Oliver of Oliver’s Cider & Perry, Nicole Leibon of Farnum Hill Ciders, and Andy Brennan of Aaron Burr Cider. Please visit ciderguide.com/podcast for a listing of past episodes, transcripts, RSS feeds, and other useful information. That’s c-i-d-e-r-g-u-i-d-e-dot-com-slash-podcast.

Joining me for Episode 7 is Alan Shapiro of SBS Imports. Alan organizes the highly successful Cider Summit festivals in Seattle, Portland (Oregon), Chicago, and the San Francisco Bay Area. Much of our conversation focuses on the past, present, and future of the Cider Summit festivals. But Alan also has much to say about how he sees the cider industry evolving, informed by his decades of experience in the alcoholic beverage industry. For example, Alan was influential in the early days of Pete’s Wicked Ale, one of America’s first craft beer brands, and was also one of the first to import English cider to the United States, when in 2003 he began bringing Aspall Cyders from Suffolk, England across the Atlantic. This interview is fairly short, but it’s packed with interesting tidbits of cider information.

Here’s my conversation with Alan Shapiro.

Alan Shapiro - Cider Summit Organizer

ERIC WEST: With me today, I have Alan Shapiro of SBS Imports. Alan is best known in the world of cider as the impresario behind the wildly successful Cider Summit festivals. Alan, thanks for joining me today.

ALAN SHAPIRO: Eric, thanks very much for asking me to be on, I appreciate it.

WEST: Alan, I know that you have a really deep background in the beverage world. Particularly with craft beer and with high-end imported beer. But let’s talk about the Cider Summits first, because that’s where people know you from.


WEST: So you launched the first Cider Summit in Seattle in 2010? Is that right?

SHAPIRO: Correct.

WEST: And what led you to believe at the time—because now you look like a genius now that the cider category is exploding—but what led you to believe at the time that a cider-only tasting festival would ever be successful?

SHAPIRO: Well, a couple years prior to that—2007 or 2008—I was having lunch down in the Bay Area with the co-founder of Pete’s Brewing Company—Pete’s Wicked Ale—which I worked at in ’89 and ’90. The gentleman’s name is Mark Bronder. And Mark was quizzing me about the world of cider. He certainly knew a little bit about craft beer. But he didn’t know what was out there in terms of the cider world.

Mark’s the kind of guy who’s very inciteful and inquisitive. And if he met you, he would find out what you did, and he’d ask you 10 or 12 great questions, and he’d understand it, and he’d have great recommendations for you. As I described what was happening in the world of cider—and this was 2007, 2008—he said, you know, it sounds an awful lot like the late ’80s when we were trying to get Pete’s Wicked Ale going.

People just didn’t understand what was in the bottle. Why a beer would be brown. What dry-hopped meant. And any of those kind of basic things—let alone the outrageous price of $5.99 a six-pack at the time!

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Episode 6 – John Bunker & Rowan Jacobsen

Download: 006_John_Bunker_Rowan_Jacobsen.mp3 [25.6MB, 28:01]

ERIC WEST (Intro): Hello there! Welcome to the Cider Guide Podcast. I am your host Eric West. In this podcast I interview personalities from the wide world of apples and cider, and I think I’ve got a great interview for you this time.

This is Episode 6. There’s been a brief hiatus as I’ve been out in the orchard—like hopefully many of my listeners—picking apples, pressing apples to juice, attending various cider festivals. So I hope you’ll excuse the delay.

In this interview, I am on location at Franklin County CiderDays in Massachusetts. I had the great fortune of talking with both John Bunker and Rowan Jacobsen after their talk on Saturday morning.

John Bunker, he’s an apple expert—one of the US’s most pre-eminent cider experts. He’s based out of Palermo, Maine. There he runs his own heritage apple CSA program called Out on a Limb. He is the found of Fedco Trees, where you can order many different heirloom and cider variety apple trees. He is the driving force behind the Maine Heritage Orchard, where varieties that are indigenous to Maine are being planted, with the hopes of preserving them for future generations. And he’s also the author of Not Far from the Tree, which is a look at the apple and cider culture of Palermo, Maine—and I guess, by extension, of New England and the country as a whole.

And Rowan Jacobsen, he’s the James Beard Award-winning author of A Geography of Oysters and many other great articles and books. I first came across his work in American Terroir. But his most recent book is on apples, it’s called Apples of Uncommon Character. And he’s a very talented writer—food writer, travel writer, talking about the sustainability of our food systems.

So without further ado, this is our talk at CiderDays from November 1st, 2014.

Rowan Jacobsen (L) & John Bunker (R)

ERIC WEST: It’s November 1st. We are at Franklin County CiderDays. And I’m very privileged to have two amazing, amazing authorities with me here.

On my right is John Bunker. You may know him as the founder of Fedco Trees. He is the author of Not Far from the Tree. And on my left is Rowan Jacobsen, also a very talented authority. His latest book is Apples of Uncommon Character.

Guys, thanks for being here with me today.


JOHN BUNKER: Thank you.

WEST: So John, I’m going to start with you. You guys just did a talk on fruit exploration. And that is something that seems to be very near and dear to your heart. Can you talk us through a little bit about the history of apples in Maine, and why it’s necessary now to go explore for some of that fruit that was once grown in Maine?

BUNKER: Well, it’s a long history. It would have begun before 1600 when fishermen from Europe were fishing off the coast of Maine. Every ship had the apple barrel. So the apple cores, the apple seeds were deposited into the ocean, all over the islands. So off the coast of Maine you find there were orchards very early on, from seed. Planted—either on purpose or inadvertently—by the fishermen from Europe, largely from Portugal. Nobody knows a lot of the details except that we know that there were orchards very early on.

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Franklin County CiderDays 2014 Preview


Franklin County CiderDays in Massachusetts—held the first weekend in November—is now celebrating its 20th edition. What began as a humble harvest celebration by West County Cider is now a New England-wide celebration of orchards, apples, sweet cider, and hard cider.

CiderDays 2014 will be held October 31st to November 2nd. Many events are free and open to the public, but some events are ticketed and other events require a $5 tasting glass to fully drink in the experience. Tickets for ticketed events are available online and I suggest you snap yours up quickly! There’s also a Facebook page where you can follow the latest updates.

If you are attending CiderDays, please be warned that the venues are spread across the entire county. Be sure you know the drive time from Point A to Point B! That way you’ll avoid rushing around and you won’t pick up an unwanted speeding ticket. If you’re using a smartphone for navigation, I’m not sure that you’ll always get signal. I have the locations pre-loaded on a GPS device just in case. Make sure someone stays sober enough to drive safely!

And speaking of West County Cider, it’s definitely worth a brief visit. West County is the first modern commercial cider producer in the US, and they continue to make interesting ciders. I particularly enjoy their rosé cider, made with the red-fleshed Redfield variety. They don’t give tours or let you wander through the production area, but it is possible to purchase 750ml bottles of cider at a reasonable price. I’ve always visited West County in the morning, but I’ve heard that Morris dancers often perform later in the day.

What follows is a preview of the workshops and tastings that most interest me. There are more events scheduled during the weekend than any one person could possibly attend, so please visit the CiderDays site for an up-to-date listing and decide what most interests you!

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Episode 5 – Andy Brennan

Download: 005_Andy_Brennan [39.2MB, 42:42]

ERIC WEST (Intro): This is the Cider Guide Podcast, I’m your host Eric West. Each week I sit down to chat with a personality from the wide world of cider. No boring theme music, no annoying advertisements, just engaging conversation with interesting guests. If you’re a first-time listener, please visit ciderguide.com/podcast to hear my past interviews with such luminaries as Tom Oliver of Oliver’s Cider & Perry, Nicole Leibon of Farnum Hill Ciders, author and photographer Bill Bradshaw, and Mike Beck of Uncle John’s.

Andy Brennan of Aaron Burr Cider in the Hudson Valley of New York joins me for Episode 5. Andy has received a great deal of positive press—much of it highlighting his use of foraged apples—and his ciders are highly regarded by tastemakers in New York City. Aaron Burr is a shining example of a small-scale cidery that is taking the high road with regard to quality while still achieving success in the marketplace. In this conversation, Andy and I chat about how he became interested in growing apples and making cider, why he uses organic and beyond-organic methods in his farmstead orchard, his success in foraging and collecting unwanted apples for cidermaking, why he enjoys making cider with non-traditional ingredients such as ginger and elderberry, and much much more.

Here’s my conversation with Andy Brennan.

Andy Brennan of Aaron Burr Cider

ERIC WEST: Let’s start off with this. So down here in Virginia, we have a number of cities and counties and universities named after founding fathers. But for those who don’t remember their U.S. history, they may not know who Aaron Burr is. So I wanted to ask you—who was Aaron Burr and why did you choose his name to name your cidery after?

ANDY BRENNAN: Briefly, for those who don’t know, Aaron Burr [was] the vice president to Thomas Jefferson—the third vice president. He actually tied Thomas Jefferson in the election. And at the time, there was no way of determining who would be president. But long story short, Aaron Burr was a very interesting person during the Revolutionary War, had a very interesting political career. Afterwards, he was the one who shot and killed [Alexander] Hamilton in a duel. He later tried to secede Mexico!

WEST: And that’s why you use the dueling pistol as your logo on your labels, is that right?

BRENNAN: Yeah, it’s from that most famous incident.

WEST: And there’s a tie to your own property, right? A tie that Aaron Burr has to your own farmstead? Continue reading