Extract from the Somerset Cider Handbook 2012 by Alan Stone
Despite its address this cider maker is just in Somerset – down the lanes from Cadbury Castle. To me John is one of the more interesting characters in cider. I first came across him through a report in a local paper that he was delivering his cider in a Porsche. That didn’t last long as a business stance – but the Porsche, or rather its successor, was an ingredient of a visit to John’s double garage until the morning before my latest visit in March 2012. Apparently he had sold it to someone in Cornwall who had been up to collect it that morning. John needs the space in his garage for a major redevelopment he is just about to start.
However I need to go back a step first. The double garage is the hub of John’s cider business. It is amazing how space efficiently it is set out with wooden racking containing neat rows of 200 litre plastic fermenting tanks. A Voran Press, a Speidel Mill and a bottling area with two small pasteurizers. John now makes around 5,000 litres a year, having grown from an experimental couple of gallons about 10 years ago before the bug really got going. Since my last visit John has really got into fermenting in oak and there must have been about ten 200 litre former wine barrels. Only a couple of these were in the racking – the rest were on two storey purpose built wooden racks which he had the foresight to build on wheels so they could be moved around. Being a freelance aerospace designer by trade is obviously a big advantage when it comes to designing garage interior layouts.
John makes a good quality cider with mainly bittersweet apples from local orchards. In the past he was selling out far too quickly and for a long time I don’t think I had tasted a mature cider from him. However on this visit he poured samples from the wood for myself and both my son’s. This cider was nicely mature, quite dry and had picked up a distinct smoky taste from the Oak. His 18 month old ‘vintage’ was particularly pleasant.
Another distinct feature of John is his imaginative marketing. When I wrote my previous book he was pioneering placing polished wooden barrels on pub bars. Now he has gone a step further and for his best outlets is actually providing a beer engine and supplying the cider in some nine gallon moulded plastic casks he has got hold of from somewhere. This certainly should work well as long as the pub has a quick enough turn over of cider.
John has always focused on pubs for his outlets and they are still his main route to market. He also bottles cider for a well know local hotel / restaurant where his is the only cider on offer. He is always looking for more pubs to supply but the Camelot in South Cadbury would seem to be as likely a choice as any to find it. He also supplies a pub called the Natterjack near Evercreech where as far as I can see they don’t sell it in the pub but fill 5 litre containers to sell as off trade.
Anyway – on to the exciting news. The reason John has sold his Porsche is to make room for his plans to extend his double garage. By the time this book is published if all goes well a two meter deep extension across the back of the garage will have been built with a loft above to enable him to bring his bottle storage back home rather than storing on a local farm. Another purpose is that he is investigating purchasing a belt press. We all have to accept passing years and he thinks a belt press will enable him to go on producing for many years to come.
John is a really nice chap – always ready to have a good chat and share his cider making experience with others – we all learn off each other. He has a sign outside his bungalow and says if the pick up truck is parked in the drive he is quite happy for people to drop in on him – though phoning first would be advisable. He is a cider maker paying real attention and care to the detail in his cider making and on the evidence of this latest visit his cider is certainly worth tasting.