Change at Tricky

The major news from the last month is that my business partner Freddie is no longer part of Tricky Cider, and has resigned as director. This was due to a difference in how we felt the business should be run and how the company should grow in the short term. Fortunately the process has been amicable, respectful on good terms and we remain friends. Freddie will be concentrating on his microbrewery, the Blackdown Brewery, currently based at the Holman Clavel which will be up and running again very shortly. I wish him all the best with his business ventures, and I expect we will be collaborating at some point in the future with our respective products, look out for beer from the Blackdown Brewery on the Tricky bar!

I have been hard at work finding new orchards the last few weeks, and the apples I need to recreate the popular Wizard cider next year. The plan again this year is to press at Hecks Cider in Street, and I believe I have sufficient fruit in the surrounding area to make for a good harvest. The orchards are generally looking pretty good, with a few exceptions, the defender is in good working condition and the trailer, apple picker and willing volunteers are ready - we’re going to hit the ground running and make some great new ciders this year!

The pictures below are a little success story.. I pulled this tree back up last winter, now look at it go!

Matt Gillett
Cider Vampires

I’ve met a few cider vampires the last few weeks, the type that get thirsty when the sun comes out. There are plenty about and we are most thankful to you! To keep up with the increasing demand we have made a few improvements back at the yard, batch pasturing is now possible thanks to a new 400L tank and our giant chiller takes cider from +30 down to 2 degrees in a single pass, these are crucial pieces of kit for our carbonation system and now I can process 10 kegs in a day. (if only bottling wasn’t so laborious!) I finished the last of the racking off last week, pumped though our new inline filter which has removed some of the haze, much of the cider especially the Wizard is yet to completely clear although there is improving clarity and flavour week on week.

We’ve also been busy getting things together for this weekend, and a run of events coming up over August including a new date - the Mid Somerset Show, which, being held in Shepton Mallet i’m very pleased to attend. This weekend however it’s time for our 2nd EAT festival in Crewkerne where Freddie will be on the stand, and also the Somerset Steam and country show in Low Ham. We were invited to attend this year as I have been helping the owners of Netherham farm maintain one of their orchards, the same orchard we picked from last year. This being just down the road from the festival means we have a truly local cider and I do hope it goes down well with the steam enthusiasts!

We’ve also had a couple of occasions to get the speakers out the last few weeks, from a campsite in Cornwall to Russ’s 40th birthday party on the farm. As always the tunes & kegs combo always goes down well and I look forward to hosting something a bit bigger perhaps, watch this space!

Till then keep yer tankards silvered and enjoy the sunshine!

Matt Gillett
Elderflower picking

A fine afternoon today picking elderflower on the farm, dodging rain showers and scaring the cows, even managed to flush a deer out of the long grass! I collected around 10kgs of flower heads and currently have them steeping in a barrel of water, hopefully enough to last the summer.

In cider news we are moving on to a new medium as the previous picked from an orchard in Baltonsborough has now run out. In years to come we will have a consistent cider which we call ‘medium’ but for this year, as it is our first pressing, we have to work with what we have. The good news is that the new medium is also very good, still a little cloudy, but balanced in tannins with a good bittersweet flavour. It’s a base of Dabinett and Yarlington Mills, with a blend from other cider apples on top. We will be offering this carbonated in our kegs, and as a medium and dry cider available in bag in box.

Our new or rather second hand steam cleaner has also arrived, which has already revolutionised our cleaning, especially dealing with the kegs. We managed to find an industrial sized steam pressure washer for a reasonable price which is now going to do a lot of the heavy cleaning work from now on. I will be very happy to reduce the number of hot caustic washes we have to do, it’s nasty stuff to work with! Bring in an old chest freezer which will now become our bottle pasteurising tank, and we are looking good to finally start getting our new ciders into bottles and out there into the shops.

Looking forward to the festival season finally getting underway, we’re going to try and get our cider out there and into as many festivals as we can. If you know a local festival which you would like to see our cider at, please do get in touch and let me know, I would love to hear from you!

Matt Gillett
Everybody loves a bearded lady...

One of the many great joys of working the mobile bar are the people you get to meet, full marks to the lovely ladies from Bruton who decided not to shave their beards for the Packhorse fair. If running out of cider is a crime, then I am guilty on 2 charges, both at the EAT festival in Burnham on Sea and Bruton on bank holiday Monday. Thankyou sunshine and happy cider drinkers!

Then of course the Bath and West, the traditional meeting of the great and good of the cider world at the British Cider championships. No awards this time, however our Crimson King is standing up there with the best of the dry ciders this year. That said, I don’t need cider aficionados to tell me what the people at the markets already know!

And of course it’s elderflower season and the first cordial has been struck, plenty around this year and I seem to have developed elderflower eyes, though it’s not painful. Fortunately our new toy - a 400L pasteurising tank has just been deployed, making the scaling up of our fruit cider operation a reality for the first time. We’re really looking forward to festival season and getting our ciders out there in whatever format we can. I know there is a certain reluctance towards fruit ciders, however if it tastes good, it’s made from 100% natural ingredients and it gets more people drinking cider then personally I can’t see the problem.

We’re back in Ilminster again this weekend with the Bar, and as I look out the window at the rain falling I can only assume that the skies will be empty come Sunday and the sun will shine on us again! Please come along and help us run out of cider!

Matt Gillett
The start of the cider season.

The last two weeks have been pretty crazy to say the least. On May the 5th we kicked off the cider season with the Ciderthon in Taunton. Under the crisp early morning sunshine we setup our stand in an innocuous layby near Norton Fitzwarren. Thanks to the all encompassing license I had the chance to get the PA system out, and a couple of DJ friends from Bristol came down to spin the wheels of steel in the most unlikely of locations. It was a day made great by the imagination and energy of the runners, who in not taking things too seriously made the day one which will be long remembered for it’s laughter and madness, probably one of my favourite days of ‘work’ ever!

Then the real hard work started as the days ran down to the very important Devon county show. A target we’d had in mind all winter, the aim to get our shop in order. A big ask, given the complexity of all new ciders, branding and a carbonation process and our first real step up from a day’s market trading! After 2 days however we had 5 still and 3 carbonated fruit ciders all bottled up in sufficient volumes to make a go of it. Arriving at the show to setup, we soon realised that my Mum’s garden gazebo was not quite going to provide the professional image we want to portray. A last minute dash to Sheerspeed shelters in Honiton ( sorted us out with a great quality 3x3m popup gazebo and put us back on the right track. A huge thankyou to all our helpers that weekend, you know who you are! We couldn’t do it without you and overall we exceeded our expectations for the week, and were very pleased with all the positive feedback.

Meanwhile I was running a bar at the Wells Beer and cider festival, I was placed alongside the Mallets cider bar (Brothers / Showerings) who gave me a lesson in marketing, and the hard business of mainstream cider selling. I wish them good fortune with their product, which is considerably better than some of the other mainstream ciders, produced in Somerset from actual apples and clearly the product of a lot of hard work. If you’re going to Glastonbury festival this year, I think you will find it hard not to have a pint of it thrust on you at some point! How does a small company like ours compete with such mass market appeal? It’s a question which we need to think long and hard about….

Matt Gillett
Cider is go

It’s all about to get very busy here at Tricky Cider. The month of May is apon us and with it the start of the festival and show season. It’s looking like a busy summer with us out at an even most weekend now until the end of August, starting this coming weekend with the Ciderthon in Taunton, and the Exmoor offroad skuffle.

Freddie and I have been working flat out to make sure everything is ready, as really this is our first proper year selling our own cider. Another 3000L has made it’s way into IBC’s this week. We generally pour striaght from the IBC and use CO2 to backfill the tanks as they empty. We hope this will help keep the cider fresh right to the last drop, helpful as we have 4 different types of cider on the go at the same time. We’re working on our new pasturising tank as well, soon we hope to be able to do 400L batches which will make all the difference, it will be a major step up from our current 40L tea urn!

The new labels have finally made it to the printers this week, after a couple of months designing, spotting mistakes and generally trying to get it right. Labels are a big investment, I hope they are well received when they come out, we think they look great. As always though it’s what’s inside that counts… and so far so good, the recipie of good apples, clean tanks and no additives seems to be working… cider is tasting great!

Finally the storm last weekend had quite an effect on us, not only blowing away any chance to sell at the markets; Burham was a washout and Glastonbury was cancelled. The wind took down a number of large old apple trees and exposed the weakspot in our poor old patchwork roof again! Ah at least spring is here, the hedgerows are looking beautiful with wildflowers and we’re looking forward to all that the month of May will throw us!

Matt Gillett
It's hammer time!

With the beautiful sunshine apon us once again it’s been a real pleasure the last few days working up at the yard. Everything seems to be going in the right direction, the yard is looking tidy, the cider we racked off 2 weeks ago has finally started to clear and is tasting great. I’m really looking forward to our own version of Steve Watkins’s Tricky cider and it won’t be long.

The best news of all is that we have managed to carbonate cider in a bottle! You’d think that if we could put fizz into kegs, we could put it into bottles, however it’s not as easy as it sounds. A major issue is that the bottle has a large surface area and the cider ends up too warm to hold the CO2. Our solution is fairly straight forward in the end, instead of chilling cider by passing it though the carbonator, we’ve circulated the cider through the chiller and back into the holding tank until it reaches 2degC. The addition of a variable thermostat and using glycol instead of water as a coolant along the way. A lot of headaches over fizzy bottles, but persistance pays off in the end, finally we can send some samples out!

And here’s some alternator news incase anyone was wondering what the outcome of welding the pulley to the shaft was… it came loose when I was towing a horsebox, with a very patient horse inside. I had to make some technical roadside adjustments using my engineering hammer. Fortunatly the landy is quite happy to drive along without power steering, alternator or water pump so chumps like me can do stuff like this and get away with it!

Matt Gillett
April Fowl's Day

The farm chickens seem hell bent on hanging out in our yard, a gentle toe punt up the chicken derriere serves only to delay their inevitable return. Major consolation that the big bull outside does not share a desire to hang out and drink cider!

Pasturised cider for tomorrows Kegging, we have switched to Glycol and a new variable thermostat in our chiller. The hope is to hit the magic 4degC for maximum bubbles. We have been struggling to produce the fizz in bottles, fingers crossed this will solve all our problems. Will find out tomorrow….

Matt Gillett
Racking off!

Great news! We have finished racking off all our cider. This should allow things to clear over the next couple of months and we will be in a position to sell our own version of Tricky’s traditional cider. Lots of cleaning, lots of fettling the reluctant pump but it’s done!

Matt Gillett
Tricky Cider Blog 19/03/2019

So.. Freddie and I have finally decided to create a record of what we’re doing, some of the crazy things that happen to us on a daily basis, we think you might enjoy reading about. Lets start with this, yesterday’s clearout of the old Tricky cider yard. By way of background, we took over Tricky cider in Jan 2018, in Feb the snow had something to say about the roof on the old yard, and it fell in covering most of the rotoplast fermenters in roof sheets and big chunky fally down bits of wood. Fortunatly we already had a new home in mind, across the road at the home of the Batchelors, Higher Willand Farm.

We’ve moved into what used to be the old cow shed, in need of a little tlc, but full of character and plenty of space to make our cider! I’m sure you will see more of it’s charms in the coming posts.

Yesterday started with welding up the alternator on the Defender… Brand new alternator can you believe it, the front pulley came all loose, so after tightening it, welding the nut on the front and it still span round I decided to weld the pulley to the shaft in a giantic last-ditch cheapskate effort. A large part of the business these days is about getting about and getting things done without spending any money, hopefully someday this might change!

So we did 5 more runs to the old yard yesterday, picking up the last of the kegs and anything else we thought looked useful! We like the look, I hope you do too, anyone need any fishing rods?

Matt Gillett