One of the pleasures of being in the National Homebrew Club is that you get to visit interesting places and meet some of the most dedicated, natural people on the planet.
Stemming from the highly successful 2013 National Competition the NHC met up with Davy Uprichard of Tempted? Cider, who agreed to judge the Cider Category with Dave Llewellyn of Double L cider. This was in March 2013, and he offered to invite the winners and a few from the Club up to see his operation, taste some ciders, and impart his not inconsiderable knowledge to us.
Due to a late spring and heavy orders we arranged a visit to Tempted? on Tuesday 28th May. Here are the notes and quotes about what is almost virtually a one man operation (read “Labour of Love”)….
Davy by degree is an Agronomist and worked initially in the horticultural industry, but in 2009 he decided to make cider from locally sourced Armagh apples and so “dj’s juice and cider” was formed. Using locally source apples he started making cider.
What cider it was was quickly evident from the accolades of both peers and the market. He started to develop new and interesting ciders, both true ciders from pure apple juice, fruit ciders for the summer market, and spiced ciders for the winter market. He continues to push the boundaries of quality, Irish Cider.
Unlike beer brewing, cider making is a long slow process. Whereas a beer can be in the marketplace after 3 months or even less, a cider at 12 months old is maybe ready for blending with a 18 month old or 2 year old cider.
Different apple varieties mature over nearly a 4 month harvesting season so the cider maker is constantly juicing particular varieties either singly or more usually as a mix of varieties. The unit of production and storage for Davy is not your average 5 gallon carboy! Instead he uses 1,000 litre IBC containers.
Once the juice is pressed and pumped into the IBC fermenters a cold acting cider yeast is pitched. Davy has no heating in his facility and is therefore at the mercy of the elements. Unlike beer however this is to the good as cider has traditionally been fermented at barn temperatures and when space is at a premium its usually left outside.
After this slow fermentation that can take up to 6 months the cider is racked off the lees and left to mature at whatever temperature mother nature decides.
So depending on the harvest and the pressings for any given year he will have several ciders available. Also just like in Jerez, Oporto or a fine Irish Whiskey distillery he will have access to last year’s or the years’ before and this is where his true artistry is evident
So far to this point most of us can wash, scratt, press and ferment apple juice. After it’s fermented and dropped clear is it cider that you, your friend or the buying public would purchase?
Naturally fermented pure juice is pretty dry and still. It has a single flavour profile that can be improved on and it needs sweetening and pasteurising so that re-fermentation cannot happen.
Davy has one of the best palates in the industry and he uses that and his skill to put together a basic cider blend. The blending involves several base ciders – a light fresh one married to a darker tannin rich one; some pasteurised, stored apple juice (or fresh depending on time of year) and sugar – either white or a darker brown all way to a Muskovado depending on the style.
The blend is made and very quickly needs to be pasteurised. This we witnessed and is labour intensive to say the least. 20L “bag in a box” bags are filled and pasteurised. Davy does the filling, lifting and stacking by himself. These bags will naturally contain still ciders. For the bottled ciders he has the benefit of a carbonator to add the CO2 and then the bottles still have to be pasteurised.
Variations on a theme
Very popular for the summer months is his Strawberry Cider, which involves sourcing local strawberries and making them into strawberry wine, after which when fermentation is complete is blended into a normal (light) cider recipe.
Where he lives is noted for cold winters so what better way to keep warm is with a strong spiced cider. The bases are fermented a little stronger than the summer ones and the the traditional winter spices are added. The exact spice mixtures are a secret!
He continues to explore the fusion of country wines with his ciders
The day we were there he was busy fulfilling a major order for a national UK’s pub chain’s cider festival. This was some task but shows his commitment to his product.
He is wisely aware of the risks of over expansion and will not commit to mass market expansion until he has the locally sourced raw materials and capacity to hand. He is totally committed to producing a natural, craft Irish product.
Like a lot of homebrewers when he does justify a capital expenditure it is the very best. His press runs at 330 bar and is made by Vigo and his plastic ware is mainly sourced from Speidel in Germany (they who make the BrauMeister).
And it would not be fair to leave out the unsung heroines of the operation: his two daughters and his wife, all of whom are involved in some way with Tempted? Cider.
Currently Tempted? offer four ciders:
as well as pure juice available in bottles.
More information on the man and his ciders can be found here: http://www.temptedcider.com/
– Will Davis