Oliver's Cider & Perry England

June, 2007, was a month to be remembered for Shelton Brothers.

For eleven years we’d imported nothing but beer (We’ll leave Daniel’s wife out of this for now). We’d often been asked why we did’t import cider, but our answer was invariably, “well, we don’t really like cider that much.”

So, when Brother Ron came back from England in 2006 all a-flutter about the cider house he’d just visited, we were skeptical. Surely this was just more of the same, bland, sugary-sweet, alcoholic apple juice we’d rejected over the years?

But this stuff was good. No, it wasn’t just good, it was fabulous . . . . dry, and complex, brimming with intense flavors. It was fermented with wild yeasts and had much more in common with Belgian Gueuze than with ‘cider.’ Who knew? So in June of 2007, we welcomed the first round of Oliver’s ciders, and we’ve made sure to keep a steady supply ever since.

The old farm in Herefordshire where Oliver’s Cider House sits has been producing cider and perry for at least three centuries. Not much has changed there in that time. These days, the wonderful Tom Oliver runs the show (when he’s not on tour, managing bands like The Proclaimers and Everything But the Girl) and uses only fresh (mostly hand-picked) unsprayed fruit, with minimal intervention. Cattle and sheep graze the orchards year-round, providing nitrogen and natural weed prevention.

Tom believes in protecting the delicate balance of his orchard’s ecosystem. He writes:

“Oliver’s strives to produce premium products, while valuing the health and well being of its consumers, its employees, the earth’s natural resources, and the environment. In fact, Oliver’s have created a charter that they hope all cider makers will follow. Its tenets are these:

•  To help secure the future of UK orchards and their ecosystems

•  Preserve the integrity of cider and perry as valuable products of recognised quality using only UK fruit

•  Declare ingredients (with traceability), based on a minimum juice content of 85%, control and minimise additives and use only natural products.”

The pears and apples are picked at full ripeness, sometimes stored to mature further, then washed, milled and, whenever necessary, macerated. Then they are pressed and fermented by wild yeasts and aged in old oak barrels for up to 10 months, before being blended and then bottled.

The region’s deep, rich, sandstone-derived clay and loam soil, and its usual daytime sunshine and gentle night time rain, are all perfectly suited to the growing of cider apples and perry pears. Blend in hundreds of years of artisan cider production, and you have the tastiest, most complex ciders and perries available anywhere.

Tom Oliver opened our eyes to a whole new world of exciting and delightful craft ciders. To be honest, we’re a little obsessed now. So get with the program and start drinking cider. It’s the new lambic.


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Cidery Website: http://www.theolivers.org.uk/