I INTRODUCE TO YOU ( it is in capitals as I AM SHOUTING THIS TO YOU IN A VERY EXCITED VOICE) …..*INSERT A VERY LOUD DRUM ROLL”…..
WALK THE SHEEP CIDER
*INSERT LOUD APPLAUSE OR CLAP MANICALLY AT THE SCREEN*
Did anyone clap manically at the screen? High five if you did!
Choosing a name for the cider
You may be wondering why on earth is it called ” Walk the sheep”? Well if you have read my other blog post there will be no doubt in your mind but if you haven’t, you can read it here if you have some time on your hands https://www.quirkytothecore.co.uk/?p=120 and if not here is a very short summary ( short for me, as I write like I am writing a never ending story)
It was Thursday March 30th, I was en route to a photo shoot in Langholm which was going to be for a feature for the Hexham Courant’s magazine, it was to be about my business and my first batch of cider, Chris from Waulkmill Cider was going to be in the photos too as that is where my cider was made and without him it would not have been possible.
I actually didn’t make it to my photo shoot as I found a sheep in the road, yes, yes you read that right. Now a sheep in the road near you may be a daily occurrence, near me it is very rare so rare that I have never seen a sheep on a busy main road in my 37 years!
Anyway luckily I was 2 minutes from home so I dashed home to get a dog lead ( Honey the dog was kind enough to let me borrow it to use on a sheep) I managed to get the sheep on the lead very easily but I then had a sheep on a lead and no clue, fast forward 4 hours ( find out what happened in the 4 hours previous on the link to blog post above) and quite a surreal sight was about to take place, myself, the sheep and a policeman walking together for what must have been a mile, to a safe barn, a lovely lady Christina had offered to look after the sheep until the owner’s were found.
As I had missed my photo shoot, as we were walking I said to the policeman that my cider, which at that point did not have a name, I had only just thought of the new overall business name ” Quirky to the core” the week before, anyway I said that the name has to be something to do with the day and he actually jokingly came up with the name, so if he is reading this THANK YOOOOU.
You know on that day, many a person drove past me just accepting the fact someone was walking a sheep, one being a friend who felt awful later on when she read my Facebook status, as she had driven past and said to herself ” oh there is Louise walking a sheep” and she thought nothing of it!
Here is the marvellous sheep, BUSTER I went to visit him and met his lovely owners. He is such a character, he lives with other sheep but he was hand reared as a lamb so he is very tame and if you call his name he will come to you.
Here is a photo captured by a lady of Buster on the lead, he did so well on that day, walking all of that distance on hard ground. I am so thankful he was reunited with his owners.
This first batch of cider is all thanks to the lovely people who collected and donated their apples and to the equally lovely people who let me collect some apples from their gardens, THANK YOU, the cider contains apples from Northumberland, County Durham and Cumbria.
A HUGE THANK YOU to Chris at Waulkmill Cider and Chris let me have some apples from an Orchard I helped him to clear.
Those of you who know me, you know that I sell fantastic ciders at events alongside my Mansacks and my Once, twice, three wines a lady range (you can find out more about other aspects of my business on the welcome page of this site) . Over the last few years, I have had many a person come to my stall and ask if I make the cider and the blurb they will know is ” Alas no, these are ciders that I have drank at Beer Festivals and loved so I chose to sell them on my stall but I do hope to make my own one day” and that was the dream.
In 2016 I was lucky to find a very kind business mentor Dave Nicholson of Nicholson’s Transport who I had started to meet with in order to help my business move in the right direction with his guidance. Dave helped me to set some goals and I set the date for me to try to produce a small batch for public consumption to be 2018, the thinking being that by this time I would hopefully have found a small premises and have all of the necessary licensing, legal, environmental health things place to produce cider, also on that goal list was to attend a cider making course.
Then in Autumn 2016 I found a Cider making course run by the owner of Waulkmill Cider, I had tried once of his ciders at Tynemouth Beer Festival in 2015, so off I went to Langholm to learn how to make cider, properly, as I had made it before with a friend, using a book and Google. You can read about the cider making course with Chris here……http://www.beerfestivalqueen.co.uk/2016/10/17/waukmill-cider/
Also in Autumn 2016 I had been offered some apples that were going to go to waste and my friend and I were just going to make a batch for ourselves which we had done in Autumn 2015. After the cider making course I helped Chris to collect some apples for a batch of his cider (this cider will be ready soon and is made from apples from Northumberland and I shall be selling it on my stall as soon as it is ready) while chatting he said that I could press my apples at his, now at this stage my head was just thinking of them being pressed for my own cider, as in a cider no one else other than family and friends could drink which was exciting enough and then a few weeks later, actually I can not remember when but it then became an idea that it could be made for not just myself but for the general public * insert excited screams*.
All of the apples that had been collected and donated joined me on a drive up to Langholm, just after Christmas. Now I had actually been a tad ill over Christmas with a bug and subsequently I had not eaten much ( you may be thinking ” what relevance does this have?” bear with as I am soon to tell) .
I arrived and unloaded all of the apples into crates, washed them down so that they were ready for the 1st stage, the scratter, I helped to pour some of them into the scratter which turns the apples into a pulp which would then be pressed.
Then, as I was holding one of the boxes above the scratter, I had a moment where I felt that I was going to faint, Chris was walking towards the scratter and I had to say ” Chris erm I think I am about to faint” I could see he looked a little shocked and then basically to summarise what happened next, I spent most of the morning feeling faint, curled up in a ball thinking how on earth will I get home, I would stand up and think ” ooh I will try again” and then have to sit down, I had a kit kat and a sugary drink, they helped a little but I was basically useless. This was a tad infuriating as I am a fit person and these were tasks I could have done easily had I not wanted to faint. So Chris pressed it all, this was the part I was so excited to do as I loved this on the cider making course, although the press that was used to press my batch was the industrial on the course we had use the traditional method.
Once my cider batch was in its’ container, the ABV was calculated and it was left to ferment at Waulkmill Cider alongside many famous ciders including award winning ciders like Waulkmill’s Mooseheid Perry which is actually my favourite of Chris’s range, it is as if it was sitting amongst Royalty in the cider world!
Bottling the cider
Then fast forward to March and two days after the “meeting Buster the sheep” day, I went to help Chris bottle my cider, well I thought I would be able to help.
Chris does everything himself, he presses the cider, he racks it, bottles it and puts the labels on. The plan was that I would help to cap the bottles of my cider while Chris filled them, take note that was the plan as it appears there is a knack to capping that I could not master in a few attempts or or and I think that this may be the real case, Langholm is in a strange vortex where Louise becomes incredibly incompetent/ weak at everything every time she goes there!
I tried, failed, tried again, failed, tried again and again and again and realised capping was not going to be learned by me on that day ( I am so buying one and practicing so I can go and wow Chris the next time I go up to Langholm)
So as oppose to capping I unloaded bottles while he filled and capped and then I put them into the boxes. Next batch I will be more involved as I will not have been ill/ not eaten for 3 days prior to going up for the pressing day and also by then I will probably be the champion bottle capper of the UK with all of my practicing so it will be a very fast process!
Prior to bottling the cider, we had to taste it, now I was quite nervous for tasting it as it had been left in Mother Nature’s hands, minus sulphites to keep it fresh so I was a little worried, as what if I didn’t like my own cider? I have been to many a Beer Festival, 10th year of being a Beer Festival attendee ( originally typed ” 10th year of being a Beer Festival goer” but how wrong did that sound!) and I have had many a cider that tastes like vinegar, tomato sauce, so if mine had turned out like that I would have been a tad upset as how could I sell something that I really disliked? Yet I suppose I could have just launched a vinegar range or called my cider ” A very vile tasting cider”.
So it was time, Chris poured out the cider ( if this was a film, it would be in slow motion now) I tasted it and ….shall I create some suspense?
I was super impressed, it tasted lovely, so crisp and fruity. Chris asked if I wanted to add anything to it before bottling to sweeten it but I liked it the way it was and decided not to add anything. Obviously we all have very different taste buds, so it may not be liked by all, it would be very odd if it was but I like it and I am quite a picky cider drinker after trying so many over the years which thankfully means that I still like everything that is on my stall at events, I can passionately sell it, it has my approval like all of the other ciders on my stall, wahoo!
On my way home I was passing a friend’s house, a non cider drinking friend so I popped in to give him the first bottle to try as he occasionally helps me out at events, he is an ale fan but he too enjoyed it, he said it was very refreshing and reminded him a little of a sauvignon.
So it is ready to go t’ market, the first one being Rothbury Food & Craft Festival on Monday May the 1st. It will be £2.60 a bottle, it is 6.4 % ABV and it as a traditional dry cider with a fruity after taste. There is some natural yeast deposit in the bottles. There is a limited quantity of bottles available to buy and it really is a case of ” once they are gone, they are gone”
Thank you again to family, friends, customers, event organisers, local media especially Helen Compson at the Hexham Courant, for all of your support, Thank you to Dave Nicholson for the business mentor support and a HUGE THANK YOU to Chris Harrison aka the Cider guru as the cider was produced and bottled there and without him it would not be here.
Thank you to the apple providers for this first batch, Jeff, Gillian, Carol, Hilary, Penny, Chris, Ronnie & his neighbours.
Thank you to the policeman for the idea of the name and of course Thank you to Buster, as without that very surreal meeting I would not have this name and Thank you to his owners for allowing me to take some photos of him and meet up with him again. Thank you to Christina at the Barn Parent & Toddler Group too for that day and Ron and Penny and her mum for helping me to get Buster into a field before he escaped again ( read about that in the other blog post).
Just to let you all know, the journey has really just begun so I hope that you will continue to follow the journey of my business.
Remember http://www.facebook.com/quirkytothecore is where you can find up to date information.