Category: cider

Cider & Perry Making at Oliver’s

I first learned of Oliver’s Cider & Perry while reading James Crowden‘s Ciderland, an excellent book that features candid interviews with 22 prominent cider and perry makers in England’s West Country. After reading the chapter on Oliver’s in Ciderland and listening to NPR‘s Out of the Pear Orchard and Into the Glass piece, it became obvious that Tom Oliver is not only a staunch adherent of perry but of Herefordshire and of rural vitality in general.

Below is an Oliver’s promotional video that explains the process of making cider and perry. Music in the video is provided by The Misers, a band that multi-talented Tom has worked for as sound engineer and tour manager! The transcript includes useful links that define terms such as ‘panking’ and ‘maceration’.

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So for me, it really does start with the fruit. And that means picking the ripest, cleanest, best fruit that you can in the orchards. And I favor fruit from traditional orchards where the manuring is only done by the sheep and where the sun and the rain combine to produce a good grass sward for grazing. And then the good, ripe, sugar-heavy fruit that we will then take, mill, press, and ferment into perry and cider.

Oliver’s is very much based around the principle of taking what the fruit gives you. And I think that is the biggest clue as to where we rely on our quality. The quality is the fruit. And in order to get the best quality fruit, you need the best possible pickers-up. And here you see the pickers-up picking up the fruit. They are a highly-trained team of skilled experts.

The man with the long pole is panking. Yes, that is panking, beginning with a P. He attempts–vainly, occasionally, but usually successfully–to get the fruit off the tree in one shake. Only the ripest, cleanest fruit is used. And that is insured by hand-picking. The gang will then collect the fruit and put them into bags. We then will get it back to the base, the ciderhouse, where we wash the fruit prior to milling it.

Here you see the fruit being tipped into the mill, where it is crushed. What you want in this is something the consistency of porridge–nice, thick, lumpy porridge. Because this is the way you will extract the most juice when you press it in the next stage of the process.

Once the fruit has been milled, we will then undergo a process for the pears called maceration. Maceration involves leaving it in these tubs overnight so that it can oxidize. And this oxidation allows the tannins to drop in level. And in the end perry, it makes it a much less astringent, tannic perry. For cider apples, you can mill them, and then press them straight afterwards.

The juice extraction is achieved by building a cheese. This cheese building is a highly-skilled artform, and the maximum extraction is always achieved when an even, well-built cheese is amassed.

[Tom Oliver leading a tour group.]

Once the juice has been extracted, the spent pomace is fed to the livestock on the farm. The juice is then pumped from the stainless steel collection tank into the wooden barrels and other containers that we use for fermenting the cider and perry in. Our preferred way of fermenting the cider and perry is in wooden barrels. To do this, we will use a wild yeast fermentation. This can involve between six to twenty-four different wild yeasts working in succession through the winter to achieve a long, slow fermentation over a period of up to six months.

After the fermentation, we’ll allow a further period of two to four months for the perry and the cider to both age and mature in the oak. Following careful observation through the winter and into the spring, it comes time to start testing the different barrels. It is only now that you start to get an indication of exactly what the finished cider and perry will be like for the year.

Once we’ve tasted all the individual barrels, we then start thinking about blends and the different ciders and perries that we wish to make this year. This is really determined by what the fruit has given us from the year before. The sweetness will dictate the alcohol level, and the combination of the different tannins and acids will give us a different balance and characteristic for each potential cider and perry.

When it comes to bottling, we’ll be looking to make a succession of different ciders and perries–from dry through to medium, from medium dry to medium sweet. Some will be single-variety perries and ciders, and some will be blended perries and ciders. Most of the bottling is done by hand with a cork closure or a screw cap. After careful analysis, the alcohols are determined, the labels completed and then applied using this label applicator. So the result of all this bottling and all this fermentation is this year’s ciders and perries.

We will hopefully have a wonderful range and selection of dry, vintage, still ciders; some slightly fizzy, carbonated, medium ciders; and some wonderful bottle-conditioned ciders. And to match those–and certainly to win over your hearts and minds–will be some wonderful perries: the dry still perry, the medium blended perries, the single-varietal perries, and the bottle-conditioned perries. We’ll also have a wonderful selection of draft ciders and perries: the youthful fruity ones that will arrive in the late spring and the early summer, through to the more intense, deeper, darker, late-autumn ciders and perries.

[Tom Oliver selling bottles to a customer.]

“Now if for some reason any of these drinks are particularly challenging or not to your taste, you’ll need a spittoon to tip them into. But I’m going to hedge my bets right now that we won’t need them.” [Laughter.]

There is no better place to come than our cider and perry house here in Ocle Pychard, where you can taste the full range of ciders and perries and really get a glimpse of the true tradition and heritage that is behind cider and perry. But also the great hope and innovation that there is for the future of these wonderful full-juice products.

Charlottesville Area Cideries

This is a transcript of a recent podcast from The Diner of Cville, a blog by Jenée Libby about food and drink in the Charlottesville, Virginia area. As Jenée mentions in the podcast, Virginia has a strong apple growing tradition and the Shenandoah Valley will likely play a major role in the renaissance of American cider making.


This is Jenée Libby, head cook and waitress at the, a food blog which chronicles food news, recipes, and all my food experiences in and around the Charlottesville area. This week’s blue plate special: apple cider. And I’m talking about “hard” apple cider.

Now, I’d say probably 8 or 10 months ago I was lamenting the lack of apple cider in Charlottesville or the Shenandoah Valley because my husband and I enjoy French apple cider quite a bit. So I am very, very pleased to announce that we now have four cideries either open and running or soon to be open and running.

I think everybody knows Albemarle Ciderworks, they opened back in 2009. Their tasting room is open Wednesday to Sunday, 11 to 5. They are in North Garden, right down 29. Really great cider, really really high quality stuff. Probably the closest thing to a “hard” nice dry French cider that I’ve had in the area so far. If you can’t make it down 29, you can pick it up at Beer Run and Market Street Wineshop and many area restaurants including the C&O Restaurant.

Potter’s Craft Cider is a brand new cidery. They are still in production [sic], but you can find their cider at Blue Mountain on draft and in growlers; at Whole Foods the same way, on draft and in growlers; and at The Local on draft. Jennifer Marley and her boyfriend–whose name I don’t recall (I’m so sorry)–but Jennifer is really super sweet, their cider is wonderful. So I definitely recommend that you check them out.

My husband and I took a trip down 151 a couple weeks ago and I was very ecstatic to see a sign for Bold Rock Cidery. Their website is They are in Nellysford, they’ve just broken ground and they should be open by the end of the year. The exciting thing about Bold Rock is that John Washburn, the owner, is in partnership with Brian Shanks. He’s from New Zealand, and he’s a foremost expert on hard cider. So I’m anticipating some great things to be coming out of Bold Rock, a great addition to the Nelson 151 project. If you haven’t been down 151 recently, I recommend that you go for all the wineries and breweries and now cideries that seems to be sprouting up every mile.

My last cidery is called Castle Hill Cider in Keswick, which is on the Castle Hill estate. This is an amazing cidery, guys. It’s in an old cattle auction barn, believe it or not. Two-story tasting room, it’s also got an event space that you can rent out. They’re open daily from 11 to 5:30 except on Mondays. Now the really cool thing about Castle Hill Cider is that while they do their fermenting in steel tanks, they also ferment in something calling kvevri. Now these are terracotta pots lined with beeswax which they bury in the ground. Kvevri originate from the Republic of Georgia, and it’s actually the ancient way that wine was first produced. So the fellas out at Castle Hill are now producing cider in kvevri. And I haven’t tried it yet, I’ve heard really great things; I’m headed out there soon, probably when the weather gets nice, I’ve heard some really good things about the kvevri.

So there’s a lot of cider in the area, guys, which makes me happy because Virginia is known for its apples after all. So check it out! And have a great week.

Video: Finnriver Cidery & Eaglemount Cidery

This short video (about 2 minutes) from features Crystie and Keith Kisler of Finnriver Cidery and Trudy Davis of Eaglemount Cidery. Both cideries are located northwest of Seattle on the Olympic Peninsula, near the beautiful town of Port Townsend.  Nearby Alpenfire is alluded to but is not mentioned by name in the video. Enjoy the transcript! (Hat tip to Dave at Old Time Cider and his OTC Facebook feed.)

ED MUIR, When you think of Washington’s leading crop, Eastside apple orchards might come to mind. But in the shadow of the Olympic Mountains, the apple trade is also thriving…but in a different way.

CRYSTIE KISLER, FINNRIVER: And so we started experimenting, seeing what we could do with an apple.

MUIR: At Finnriver Farm, that lead to hard cider. Keith and Crystie Kisler raise animals and grow various crops on their 35-acre organic farm. But now, cider rules.

KEITH KISLER, FINNRIVER: [Disgorging a bottle in the méthode champenoise style] Take the sediment out…

MUIR: Thousand-gallon vats ferment the cider—this is, after all, alcohol. The Kislers have a tasting room where they sell up to 14 ciders and fruit wines. A staple of American diets in colonial times, cider is now making a comeback. Two years after the Kislers started selling their hard cider, they’ve ramped up production from 800 gallons a year to 15,000 gallons [from roughly 3,000 to 57,000 liters, nearly a twentyfold increase].

CRYSTIE KISLER: This revival respresents a resurgence of interest in that heritage…but also just something exciting and different for beverage drinkers.

MUIR: A few miles away on an 1883 homestead, century-old trees grow the apples that go into Jim and Trudy Davis’s hard cider. Eaglemount used to be strictly a winery, but several years ago the Davises found an outlet for all those apples. Their tasting room currently features six types of hard cider—including a rare quince cider—in addition to their wines.

TRUDY DAVIS, EAGLEMOUNT: We started selling at the farmer’s market in Port Townsend, and there were so many people that didn’t even know what hard cider was. So it was really kind of neat to be able to educate them.

MUIR: Now cider lovers are coming to them. The cideries around Port Townsend are tourist attractions in their own right…similar to wineries, but on a smaller scale.

DAVIS: With the two other cideries, people come out for cider tours.

MUIR: While hard cider may never be as big as Northwest wine or microbrews, more and more people are clearly thirsting for Washington’s top crop.

Hello Cider World!

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This map of cider producers, bars, shops, museums, and other points of interest is a work-in-progress to catalog the world’s cider scene. The ultimate goal of the project is to create a community-driven site where users can review cider, perry, and related drinks. Stay tuned!