Just prior to the Beer Sessions Radio episode that I’ve recently transcribed, Tom Oliver sat down with Joel Shelton and BR Rolya of Shelton Brothers to record a 30-minute episode of The High & Mighty Beer Show. Shelton Brothers are best known as adventurous importers of artisanal beers from around the world, but they also carry a healthy selection of ciders and meads. In this interview, Tom has a chance to talk more about his long career in the music industry, which I found fascinating.
JOEL SHELTON: Welcome to The High & Mighty Beer Show with the Shelton Brothers. I’m Joel.
BR ROLYA: I’m BR.
SHELTON: BR Rolya, our representative here in New York—Shelton Brothers rep—what’s it like working for Shelton Brothers in New York City?
ROLYA: Challenging, but fun.
SHELTON: It’s challenging, ’cause we have so many brands to sell.
ROLYA: We do. We have an awful lot of brands to sell. People think, oh, New York is a huge city, you must sell tons and tons of beer. But the problem is there are plenty of other breweries and importers who have the exact same thought.
SHELTON: Our beer is better.
ROLYA: Our beers are way better.
SHELTON: And we have ciders as well. We don’t just beer, I mean, this is a really smooth segue, because we have a special cider guest today Yeah, we’ve talked about cider in the past. Quite a few months ago we talked about Spanish cider—Basque cider—which is amazing stuff. And we know as little about that as we know about English cider, which is what we’re talking about today. What’s it like selling cider when you don’t know too much about it, and no one else knows too much about it?
ROLYA: Well that’s the thing, no one else knows about it. When people think of cider, across the board it seems like, they think of that sweet stuff on tap which primarily—I know, I’m stereotyping—but primarily, the ladies will order. And they might serve it over ice, which is just appalling. But usually they’re artificially sweetened or added sugars…
SHELTON: Or both.
ROLYA: Added flavors, or both. But we’re lucky here in New York City, we’re not too far from the Hudson Valley, which is a huge cider producing region. I think New York state is second after Washington state in apple production.
SHELTON: Historically as well, right?
ROLYA: Well historically, and now, they produce, I believe, second after Washington state. And so there’s a lot of cidermakers that are popping up along the Hudson Valley. So it’s starting to become more popular here. People are starting to learn about the different flavors of cider. It’s not just simply a sweet, alcoholic, apple-y beverage.
SHELTON: But still, the biggest sellers are the sweet commercial ones you see everywhere.
ROLYA: It’s the same as some of the sweet, Belgian beers that are popular or the terrible American light lagers. We’re out to change the world, Joel!
SHELTON: Including the cider world.
ROLYA: Including the cider world.
SHELTON: Good god, it’s too much. By the way, we are live in New York. We’re down here in East 7th Street across from Tompkins [Square] Park, site of the famous riots of 19…
ROLYA: I believe ’88?
SHELTON: Didn’t you watch the riots straight from your window?
ROLYA: I wasn’t here for that one. I was here for the second one, when they evicted all the homeless out of the park.
SHELTON: Memories, memories. Well, we have a special guest here in New York this week—Tom Oliver of Oliver’s Cider and Perry. Tom, what’s the official name of your company?
TOM OLIVER: Uh, Oliver’s Cider and Perry.
SHELTON: Oh I had it pretty close, didn’t I?
OLIVER: You were almost spot on, yep.
SHELTON: That was actually the first time I’ve ever gotten anything right on this show, in 71 episodes. But Tom, you’re visiting New York on music business.
OLIVER: That’s correct. I’m a tour manager and sound engineer with The Proclaimers. I think this is my 26th year with them. And that in itself is quite a feat.
SHELTON: Do they still like you?
OLIVER: They seem to tolerate me the same as they always have done. I think it’s got to the stage now where, when they go to do a show and I don’t turn up, they think something is wrong. No, we get along great.
SHELTON: Well we’re going to get into the music discussion in a little while, but we’re going to talk cider—maybe your first love, I don’t know if your first love was music or cider. But you don’t have to decide today.
OLIVER: I’ll give them both equal attention.
SHELTON: OK, fair enough. We’ll give them both equal attention today. So let’s get back to the cider for a little bit. We were just talking about the difficulty of promoting real cider in New York. And you’ve probably had the same experiences in England through your years of making cider there.
OLIVER: I think a lot of the time, you either have people who think they know what cider is—and in the UK, cider is quite often seen as some fairly assertive, maybe slightly acetic, slightly vinegary concoction that they bought when they were on their way to holiday in Cornwall and they stopped off at a cider farm in Devon or Somerset. And that frequently coincided with their first real go at drinking alcohol, they probably got a little overexuberant on it.
SHELTON: We’re assuming these were young people?
OLIVER: We’re talking younger, and quite often that was the last time they would’ve ever drunk cider. So you have that story. You have a similar story in that there are a large number of sweeter, more easy-drinking ciders that are aimed at the ladies market and the draft market. But that’s in a country with a tradition of cider drinking. Now over here, I see that it’s much more open in the sense that it’s starting again, almost from scratch. And so, cider, as I see it, for a lot of people means a drink that’s not fermented at all, it’s just natural apple juice, as I would term it. When I talk about cider, I mean an alcoholic drink. So there’s plenty of work to be done.
SHELTON: Well certainly I think when BR and I were growing up, when you had cider it was a jug of usually kind of cloudy, natural looking stuff. But had nothing to do with alcohol. Maybe it would’ve turned to alcohol if you didn’t drink it fast enough.
ROLYA: Oh it does, I have a jug in the fridge! It’s a very basic way of making hard cider. You get the unpasteurized jugs of cider from the farmers market, and pour a little bit out, shake it up, vent off the CO2 every now and then. And sometimes you end up with cider vinegar, other times you end up with a passable form of hard cider.
SHELTON: So all those years when I was a kid, I could’ve been making alcoholic cider?
ROLYA: You could have been making alcoholic cider!
SHELTON: Or my dad could’ve, if he cared for us!
ROLYA: If your dad loved you…
SHELTON: We always get into these things in the Shelton Brothers, it’s part of our therapy. Tom, in England, when you were growing up, it was hard cider, it’s been a tradition that’s never disappeared from England?
OLIVER: It’s never disappeared. It did, historically, all through the centuries, cider’s had a very much up-and-down existence. It’s always been there, but being there and being good is two different things. Every hundred years it seems there’s a renaissance, both in the orchard aspect of things—so the growing of the trees, preservation of old varieties, the introduction of new varieties. And coinciding with that, there’s a renewed interest in making better, and good cider. This does carry on into some momentum.
But until the recent—certainly in the UK—advent of a particular cider called Magners, who introduced a very clever marketing angle, which was cider over ice. Which I won’t debate whether that’s a good or bad thing. But in the sense that it suddenly introduced cider to the young, it was a fantastic thing. They introduced it in Glasgow, Newcastle, Leeds, and I think another couple of other areas in the UK. Very specific—Irish bars in those cities. And in one season, they saw the interest and the sales go sky high. So the next year they introduced it everywhere. I think in the space of three years, cider went from being either the drink that the diehard bulbous-nosed yokel might be drinking—there was those that would drink big commercial company ciders, so Bulmers is a brand, Strongbow, Woodpecker.
SHELTON: Those are the ones you see in every pub.
OLIVER: That’s it. Those were what people thought of as cider. But Magners introduced young people to cider. For the first time ever, 6:30 at night, in a city, and the young people outside pubs drinking, and they’d have bottles of cider in their hand or a glass of cider. I’d never seen that. So this really was an absolute sea change in the acceptance of cider by a lot of new drinkers.
SHELTON: But what where these ciders replacing for these young drinkers?
OLIVER: I think it was a progression from these fruit-adjusted beverages, what are they called…
OLIVER: Yes, alcopops. So it was replacing alcopops, and it was replacing lager to a degree as well.
SHELTON: So that’s pretty good news all around, nothing we will miss if you got rid of it.
OLIVER: Yeah. I mean, I don’t want to antagonize the lager people.
SHELTON: Too late, Tom.
OLIVER: I already did.
SHELTON: Too late, this is going to air all over the UK.
OLIVER: But yes, it can’t be a bad thing. Also, if it makes people make better lager. Because there are good lagers—I’m not going to tell you, because I don’t anything about beer—but I understand that in terms of what I might understand a lager to be, there are good lagers. But they just need to be made with some care.
This cider thing really started to gather momentum, and it got young people drinking it. And then of course, that had a knock-on effect. We’ve got a renewed interest in traceability of food and drink. Food festivals have become a very big part of the food scene on an annual basis. Food groups—Slow Food movement to an extent, CAMRA and their support for beer and cider—has spread the interest. Suddenly lots more people are exposed to lots more ciders, and in that sort of moment of euphoria, of discovering something new, it got people persuaded that cider actually was a great drink, and they then went on to discover the bigger depth that cider offered. Because it is a huge choice. Us small cidermakers have benefited immensely from it.
SHELTON: Well, we’re going to take a break for a minute and come back and talk about your particular company—its past history and more recent history. This is the High and Mighty Beer Show with the Shelton Brothers, we’re speaking with Tom Oliver of Oliver’s Cider and Perry.
[Music: The Misers – Long Way Down]
SHELTON: We’re back. This is the High and Mighty Beer—and today, Cider—Show. This is Joel, I’m with BR Rolya from New York City and Tom Oliver directly from…Tom, what’s the name of that little village?
OLIVER: Ocle Pychard.
SHELTON: What does that mean?
OLIVER: OK. ‘Ocle’ means ring of oaks, because there were oak trees everywhere back in the day, in England. And ‘Pychard’ is because the area where the farm is was given to one of the knights that helped William the Conqueror in 1066 subdue the occupants of the area, and he was from Picardy. So the village got named “the place where the oaks grew, given to a knight from Picardy.” Ocle Pychard.
ROLYA: And your farm has quite a long history.
OLIVER: Yep. The history that I’m most aware of is my grandfather growing cider apples from the end of the 1800s to about 1921. And he grew [apples] to make cider for the workforce and for his own consumption. But all surplus apples went to Bulmers, who by then, were buying fruit from farms all over Herefordshire.
SHELTON: Bulmers the big cider company?
OLIVER: That’s it, the big cider company. And then—and I’m pretty sure it’s 1921—they started a new contract. And this is quite interesting to think, that all cider apples in Herefordshire now—98% of them—are all grown under contract to certain producers. And I want to say by far and away most go to Bulmers. So farmers are growing the apples, and every apple they grow goes to Bulmers, they can’t sell it to anyone else.
ROLYA: Do they request certain varietals?
OLIVER: The varieties are as encouraged by Bulmers’ orcharding people. And that involves a lot of old traditional varieties. Actually now, they’re planting lots of new varieties.
SHELTON: Tom, I was looking on your website, and you list about 30 different cider apple tree varieties on your own farm.
SHELTON: And 30 different pear…
OLIVER: Yep. I’ve got something like 40 different cider apples. And I think it’s about 30 different perry pears. But I haven’t got huge numbers of trees of all of those. But variety is the spice of life when it comes to blending ciders. But also, when I was interested in planting, and got quite involved in doing it, there was not a lot of planting of old traditional varieties. It looked like we were losing quite a lot of the last few orchards. But interesting enough, with the renewal of interest in cider, there’s been a huge renewal of interest in planting cider apples. So now, I’m far more optimistic for the near future for the survival of varieties of cider apple than I was 15 or 20 years ago.
SHELTON: Do you have any idea how many varieties there were at one time?
OLIVER: There are thousands of varieties of apples. In England I think it’s at least two or three thousand. As with all things, when you distill it all down, probably two or three dozen cider varieties that are the common ones planted in large numbers. But there would probably be 100, 120 that are in decent quantities that people use. So the number of varieties really does give you a much greater opportunity to blend ciders. The big producers, they’re probably not interested in lots of varieties, what they’re interested in is having the volume of juice which they can then take as their base juice, and they can then mess with it.
SHELTON: And they might manipulate it more than someone like you would.
OLIVER: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
SHELTON: We can talk about that a little bit. What’s the difference in production between the big commercial companies and what you’re doing? You do it the most natural way possible.
OLIVER: I don’t mind running the risk. The biggest difference is we all have to get our apples at the appropriate stage of ripeness, press them, and get the juice. The larger producers will then do as much as they can to get a greater economic return from their apple crop. Which invariably involves probably some form of adulteration—dilution, whether it be water or imported concentrate or whatever—in order to get as much cider that qualifies for duty but isn’t as involved with the apple. We have a law now that stipulates that [at] 20 degrees Centigrade, 33% of any cider must have a basis in fruit. But that doesn’t necessarily mean fresh fruit.
SHELTON: As usual, things made the natural way taste better. Your cider is made from 100% natural juice.
OLIVER: 100% apple. Well it’s the only way I know. And I think it does give you a definite advantage, the characteristics in the finished cider are usually far more complex. But having said that, therefore quite often more demanding. And therefore not necessarily easy, both in the sense to drink and in the sense to appreciate. There’s horses for courses. And there’s a lot to be said for making cider as drinkable as possible, because that may be what you want from it. You want something that’s good and thirst quenching. Now, I would say that you could make a full-juice cider like that, but if you throw in then the fact that we use wild yeast fermentations. So we are also open to the possibilities of all things that can happen when you let wild yeast loose on your ciders. Now, frequently I think it’s good and far better results. But of course there are times when the results are not all that you’d want them to be. And if I was a large producer using a large volume container—you know, 50,000-liter containers, 10,000-gallon type containers—then I’d probably want to feel very confident by pitching a yeast that what was going on was a good, solid fermentation with good, predictable results.
SHELTON: Those big companies wouldn’t do wild yeast ever, would they?
OLIVER: Too risky. And in actual fact, a lot of them are petrified of wild yeast to the extent that they’ll kill off all the wild yeast so that the fermentation really is down to maybe one style of yeast. And then you end up with a predictable cider base from which you can then make your myriad of different ciders. There are good, sound, commercial reasons for that I would argue. As long as I don’t actually have to do those good, sound, commercial things!
SHELTON: You’re not interested.
ROLYA: Aside from the wild yeast, do you traditionally ferment in wooden barrels?
OLIVER: I do a lot in oak. I don’t do it exclusively in oak, some of my ciders are made in a similar way to French ciders with keeving. And in keeving, you need vertical sides, and you need to be able to see what’s going on. So in actual fact, the relatively cheap food grade plastic containers are, for me, the ideal containers for doing these sorts of ciders that I don’t want any wood influence at all. Certainly a number of my ciders are exclusively in wood. Most of them, after that, are a mix of wood and stainless steel and plastic and fiberglass, whatever. You can make great ciders in all sorts of different containers. And they all have something that they bring to the table.
SHELTON: So you make at least five sort of standard ciders, then a host of other ones seasonally?
OLIVER: I’m a classic example of a small producer who’s doing exactly what you shouldn’t do, which is making lots of different things and trying to do it every year. What the drive behind that is, that when people come and visit us—and we’re very lucky, people do seem to want to come and visit and find out about cider—what I want is for there to be at least one or two ciders that everybody is going to enjoy. So that means that you really have to have cider that stretches from being the driest to sweet, then is still and fizzy, and a combination of all those things in between. So at any one time, we’ve probably got a dozen to 16 different bottled ciders in the ciderhouse. And at least three draft ciders, and in the summer when they’re all coming to maturity, probably three draft and two single-variety ciders, and a couple of perries. So if you come, you’ll be able to try over 20 different ones on any given occasion. And that’s great. And hopefully we’ll find something that everyone can enjoy.
SHELTON: If you picked a place on the spectrum—the perfect cider for you—is it closer to the funkier one, the earthier one, the sweeter one, the drier one?
OLIVER: No sweetness.
SHELTON: No sweetness.
OLIVER: And no sparkle. Dry, a little bit of funk, just very austere and demanding. There’s nothing getting in the way of the core of the taste. And sweetness for me, does. A lot of people equate sweetness with appleyness, and I understand that. You could make a cider sweeter and people will say, this is appley-ier.
SHELTON: Well they’re used to eating apples.
OLIVER: That’s it. And the perception of appleyness is enhanced by sweetness. And I also understand that there’s a lot of other things going on. So there’s the drying effect of our ciders, and we’re in an area with lots of tannic ciders. And just the bitterness and astringency of a cider, it’s sometimes just offputting for people. But if you become a confirmed cider drinker, you will gravitate toward those.
SHELTON: Tom, we need way more time to talk about cider. But we’re going to talk about music in the next segment, is that OK with you?
OLIVER: Of course it is.
SHELTON: We’ll have to catch up with you next year about the cider. We’re going to take a short break. This is the High and Mighty Beer Show with the Shelton Brothers. We’re speaking with Tom Oliver of Oliver’s Cider and Perry.
[Music: The Proclaimers – Like Comedy]
SHELTON: We’re back. This is the High and Mighty Beer Show, or I should say the High and Mighty Cider Show. This is Joel, I’m with BR in New York. And we’re with Tom Oliver of Oliver’s Cider and Perry. Tom, we promised to talk about music this last segment. But I just want to go back to something we mentioned in the first segment about how the youngsters in England start their cider appreciation—and cider dislike. I started off drinking cider…it was in your neighborhood, actually, I didn’t know you then. But some friends took me to a cider pub which you may know about, it’s out in the middle of nowhere in a field, which is where everything is out where you live in Herefordshire. Herefordshire, we should say, is north of Gloucestershire?
OLIVER: That’ll work. It’s northwest.
SHELTON: But I’ve been around there a lot. And anyway, this friend of ours took us to a cider pub—they specialized in cider, not ale.
OLIVER: The Monkey House at Defford?
SHELTON: You know, I don’t remember, Tom. And I’ll tell you why I don’t remember. Because I don’t remember anything from that day! Except for they took us to this pub in the middle of the afternoon, but they had 10 different ciders on draft. And I’d never drunk cider before, I had no opinion of it except for that some of them were sweet, some were dry. But I tried every one of them. And I chugged about three or four, and I said this doesn’t have any effect! And all these farmers were there, and they said wait for a few minutes, and they were laughing at me. I remember that part. And after that, I don’t remember much. And I ended up, well, in some strange places later on.
OLIVER: I think you would’ve gone strange places in your head, and maybe in your body. The whole thing about cider, I think, is if you’re sat down inside drinking it, it seems fairly innocuous. But it’s when you get up and you go outside, the combination is your legs go from underneath you and the fresh air hits you, and goodnight Vienna [it’s all over].
SHELTON: I can’t really say how I ended up, I don’t remember the rest of the night or much of the next day. It’s not that important, but I wanted to be part of English history.
OLIVER: You have established your credentials with that, certainly.
SHELTON: We digressed from our promise to talk about music. As you said earlier, music is equally your first love with cider and perry. And you’ve been in the music business for quite a long time.
OLIVER: I got stuck in when I left agriculture college at 21. On the advice of my parents, who said agriculture, it’s a tough one, there’s not a huge living to be had out of this. If there’s anything else you want to do, give it a go.
SHELTON: Are you saying your parents suggested the music business?
OLIVER: No. That was probably the last thing they thought of. It was my choice, always. As a teenager, who doesn’t like music? And I was no exception. I grew up with a band in Herefordshire that distinguished themselves above all others, was a band called Mott the Hoople. Who I still think are the greatest band that ever existed. And Mr. Ian Hunter who is now a resident of Connecticut and has been for many years, is my all-time songwriting hero. So I’ve got a lot of time for that. We’ve managed to produce the three male members of The Pretenders, so that has been another claim to fame for the county. And in front of you is an album by The Misers, who I would suggest are a band who hopefully are going to raise some eyebrows and get some converts over the next few years.
SHELTON: And speaking of which, we played a cut from The Misers on our first break.
OLIVER: You did.
SHELTON: And you produced this?
OLIVER: This album, I was the executive producer—which I’m not really sure what that means—but it usually means that I seemed to be there all the time. But I didn’t have to qualify what I did, so that was it.
SHELTON: No one ever knows what that means. It basically means you’re in charge of getting it done.
OLIVER: Yeah. And the first album that they did, I was co-producer on. And it gave me an opportunity to work at Rockfield Studios, the most noted residential studio in the UK, and one of the most noted in the world, I think. Music has taken me everywhere and everywhere, and I’ve managed to stay fairly healthy, enjoyed it. I started off with pop bands, bands like Haircut One Hundred and Stray Cats, an American band.
SHELTON: You mean—you started off—you mean what, exactly?
OLIVER: I would’ve been doing sound, then. Not necessarily sound for the audience, but maybe sound for the band on stage. And then I moved on to some reggae bands—Burning Spear, Gregory Isaacs—I learned a lot about sound then, and how to layer sound, it was very educational working with them. And then I started combining and sound and tour management, with a band called It Bites, who were a progressive rock band. And then, got offered a job with Van Morrison, looking after him, which I managed to survive. And if you can survive working with Van, then it’s accepted you can probably do the job, generally.
SHELTON: Care to elaborate?
OLIVER: No, no. Except as always, there’s a myriad of stories about him, and they’re all true.
SHELTON: Are we getting back to cider now?
OLIVER: [Laughs.] So after Van, I ended up doing my two real long-term bands, which was Everything but the Girl and for the last 25 years I’ve been involved with The Proclaimers.
SHELTON: Which is the reason you’re here in town?
OLIVER: Which is the reason I’m here in New York now.
ROLYA: You’re here for a whole month in the US, right? Touring with them?
OLIVER: Yep. We’re doing an acoustic tour, the three of us in a vehicle with an acoustic guitar turned up, and they’re singing their tunes.
ROLYA: As tour manager, do you insist that the rider include that every venue must stock Oliver’s Cider and Perry?
OLIVER: You know, it’s most interesting. But the one thing I’ve never done is have cider on the rider. Because I worry for myself. When I’m on tour, when we’re doing shows, I don’t drink anything. And the temptation of looking at cider, it would be just too much.
SHELTON: So you really don’t trust yourself?
OLIVER: I know my limitations.
SHELTON: You don’t drink at all on tour?
OLIVER: No, I will rephrase that. While I’m working, I don’t drink. But you may occasionally find me, for relaxation, back at the hotel at night, I may just have the odd—what’s it going to be, because there aren’t many places where you can get a decent cider—so it’ll probably be a beer.
SHELTON: And you said before you don’t know anything about beer. I’m sure that’s not true, but you don’t mind drinking a beer if there’s no good cider to be had.
OLIVER: I don’t mind. I’m not just saying it because I’m in America. But the craft beer availability is really pretty spectacular now. They’re always very interesting in terms of flavors. I’m a big hop man, because one of the reasons that…we were going to get around to it, maybe we can just spin it in a bit. On the farm, we started—my granddad—we got to 1921, Bulmers offered a new contract price for apples. He agreed to it. They reneged on this price. And he said, well, I’m going to pull all my apple trees out, I’m going to plant hops, because it’s a much better prospect for making money. And he did it. He wasn’t the only farmer that did that. About that time, we saw the potential for growing hops. Kent’s always been seen as the area for hops, but actually Herefordshire, combined with a little bit of Worcestershire, was a bigger hop growing area at some stage. Every farm had a hopyard, it was the major cash crop. And that was the case from the 1930s right through to the ’90s. Unfortunately, the market for hops started to get more challenging, imports from China, Eastern Europe, and America, they were planting hops in valleys that had never seen hops before. So for ten years, you could grow hops without any disease problem. We couldn’t compete with that. We had growing disease problems, we had labor problems, price was getting more challenging. So most hop growers went out of it. And so the sight of these big sixteen-foot high wirework hopyards in Herefordshire, hop gardens in Kent, they disappeared over the space of about ten years.
The buildings, we had machinery was taken out, scrapped. We actually think most of the old hop machines in the UK went to build the Olympic Stadium in Beijing. If you have a look at the Olympic Stadium in Beijing, it looks like a giant hop machine. So we then moved in to the space that the hop kilns had used, and the hop kilns is where my ciderhouse is and the shop and the storage and the bottling. And the hop shed, where the hops were picked, is where I have my press and my tanks. And my barrels live in any space I can get them.
SHELTON: So the apples and pears came and went. And then the hops came and went.
SHELTON: So it just goes in cycles.
OLIVER: That’s agriculture. You can’t specifically see what the future holds. But for a period of time, you develop your expertise in one area, and then that gets pulled from underneath your feet, and you have to reinvent yourself and become an expert in something else. I mean, I grew up knowing all about hops and picking hops, thinking that that would be the thing that would keep me fed and warm at winter—it wasn’t the case. We were very glad to explore the world of cider and perry again. And in terms of selling it, we’d always made cider and perry on the farm for our own consumption.
ROLYA: Speaking of reinventing, you recently collaborated with someone here in the US who’s gone from brewing to cidermaking!
ROLYA: And you’ve created an award winning product.
OLIVER: Yep. I met Greg Hall from Virtue Cider, [he] came over a number of years ago on a foray exploring cider, following on a real yearning that he had developed for a cider setup himself. We sort of hit off talking about it, really, and discussing the opportunities. So while we were talking, and while he was consuming more pints of perry than is humanely possible to drink—I give him full dues, because I couldn’t match him. Anyway, we talked about the idea of doing something that’s happening quite a bit in the brewing industry, this collaboration. And the idea that it would be a transatlantic collaboration seemed like a really nice idea. So we brought together the fact that wild yeasts were a fairly key thing, that gave us a lot of connections with lambic yeasts and brewing. So I came up with the basic bittersweet cider, fermented in oak with wild yeasts. And then adding some fruit sugars and pitching in some lambic yeast to get a little bit more alcohol, like another percent, but getting another layer of complexity. And that’s what we did. Gold Rush was the name that I came up with. We made it, bottled it, and it met with a wonderful mixture of responses. Because it is a proper bittersweet cider. It will be a little bit too demanding for some. But for others, it was like the light went on, and this is fantastic!
And then just a couple of weeks ago at GLINTCAP, which is the big cider competition, under the English cider section, there were two gold medals awarded. And Gold Rush picked up one of them. Which I was really pleased about. There were two gold medals, one went to an English cider, and another went to an American cider. And that seemed to me a nice thing.
SHELTON: Which was better, Tom?
OLIVER: I haven’t tasted the American cider yet, and I’m sure that, in my mind, will be better. Everybody else’s cider is always better than your own. I was pleased, because there were also some Spanish ciders in there, and my big fear was that a Spanish cider and an American cider would win in the English cider section. And I’m not sure I’d be happy about that.
SHELTON: Well, Tom, we don’t have much time left. We’ve got to run. We’ve got some errands to do with you. We’re going to be on another radio show after this, then we have a tasting event here in New York City. It never stops, BR, right?
ROLYA: No, it…
SHELTON: We never get any rest.
ROLYA: It’s the city that never sleeps, but that drinks a lot.
SHELTON: Yeah. But Tom, you’re going to be drinking with us the rest of the day, is that OK?
OLIVER: I’m going to do my best.
SHELTON: It’s early yet, but we’ve got some events to do, we’re going to hit the town. We want to say thanks to Lauren Shepherd, our trusty Shelton Brothers representative out in Colorado, who is our cider expert. And always trying to convince us that cider is good, it’s an uphill fight. But Lauren told us Tom was coming, which we appreciate.
OLIVER: Lauren does a fantastic job for our ciders. I’m most grateful to her for all the support. And, of course, Joel and BR, thank you very much. And to Sheltons, I have to say, I take my hat off to you. Because without you, I would have no possibility of anything happening here, so thanks a lot.
ROLYA: Thanks, Tom.
SHELTON: Tom, you just keep touring as a musician and talking about cider.
OLIVER: If you heard me as a musician, you wouldn’t want to have me touring, I guarantee it!
SHELTON: Or as a manager, I’m sorry. Well, anyone who’s listening out there, look for The Proclaimers on tour for the next month or so. All over the States, I guess?
SHELTON: You can go say hi to Tom, you can find the one sober guy in the crowd, that’ll be Tom. If it’s after the show, he might be in the gutter. But are they free to say hi to you at the show?
OLIVER: Please come by. I am the slightly overweight balding guy with glasses at the mixing desk. And if I’ve had a good day, I might be smiling. If I’ve just had a horrible day with lots of driving, the smile might not be as wide as normal. But come and say hello. And bring me some cider.
SHELTON: Tom, we appreciate you coming by to do this show.
OLIVER: Thank you for having me.
SHELTON: Well, we’ll talk to you again soon.
OLIVER: Yeah, please do.
SHELTON: Either live or on the phone. You’ve been listening to the High and Mighty Beer Show with the Shelton Brothers. I’m Joel.
ROLYA: I’m BR.
SHELTON: Our guest has been Tom Oliver of Oliver’s Cider and Perry. We’ll see you again next week.