Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Weston Cider Factory

If you go into an English pub, in addition to the beer taps there will generally be one or two cider taps. Cider is a wonderfully refreshing drink and when I was doing the Coast to Coast walk a few years ago, I would usually have a cider at the end of the day's walk instead of beer. Many cider apples are grown is Worcestershire, Herefordshire and Gloucestershire counties and Westons is one of Englands major cider producers.

So we hopped in the car and drove through Ledbury and on a few miles to the village with the lovely name of Much Marcle. We arranged to take the tour that started at 11 am.

The local shop in Much Marcle

We parked at the local pub and since we were a bit early, decided to walk into the village.

We reckoned that Miss Marple lived here. Oddly enough, a serial killer was born here.

There were quite a number of lovely old houses. 

The local hall.

Playing fields for the local school. There must have been more to the village since there is a parish church which we did not find. It was time to get to the factory for the tour so we hopped back into the car and drove roughly half a mile.

The factory.

The not very Big Apple on top of an old oak stump.

A lovely garden hiding the industrial buildings.

Entrance to the room where you buy your ticket that costs ten pounds.

Of course there is a shop where you can buy their wares.

At 11 am our guide appeared and four other people about our age joined us. The very knowledgeable young man told us about how the original owner started to make cider, was successful and how the business grew and grew. This is part of the original house.

Some examples of early cider presses.

The apples were crushed in the trough.

And then the juice was pressed out of the apple pulp.

A scratcher which was a later invention used to mash the apples.

A small museum of old bottles.

In the olden days, the workers were partially paid with cider which was poured into these little kegs. The workers would drink about six kegs worth a day. It sounds a bit much, but the cider would have been safer than the water back then.

Barrels to carry the cider to pubs around the UK. A lot of Westons cider goes to Australia in large plastic disposable kegs as well as huge containers of cider which is subsequently bottled in Oz.

Huge storage tanks. Cider consumption has grown enormously in the past few years so they have installed a lot of new tanks. Every few years there is a bad harvest and so they need to have sufficient cider on hand to meet demand in such years. 

An old steam engine that gets an outing every now and then.

They also have a couple of large draft horses that are brought out for special occasions. They were out in the paddock this day.

When the fruit is delivered it is simply poured off the truck into this pit and subsequently into the hole at the end of the bottom of the pit. They also get organic apples and pears which have their own pits so that they are not contaminated. The factory is built on a hill side so the apples arrive at the highest point and gravity is used to transfer the apples or juice further down the hill.

The apples are typically not picked directly from the trees. When the fruit is ripe, a machine with a vacuum pump comes along and sucks up the fallen apples which are essentially discarded. Another machine then comes and shakes the trunk of each tree so that the apples fall off. Less than an hour later, the vacuum machine comes along and sucks up the fallen fresh apples which are then delivered to the factory and weighed at the gate at the back right of the photo.

It is very much a factory with huge vats and pipes running everywhere. The company employs only 120 people which includes the lorry drivers who deliver the cider to the pubs etc.

The apples are thoroughly cleaned with this machine.

A modern press in the background. The spaghetti looking pipes take the juice out of the press.

All of the wooden vats have names.

Some of the vats were named after the family daughters but the sons wanted their vats to be named after football teams.

The vats are made out of English oak and are very old. They are held together usually by steel rod.

Three of the older vats used in the fermentation process.

These enormous vats are their oldest. The one on the left is called Pip and is over 200 years old and the matching brother is called Squeak and is over 100 years old. They get their money's worth out of their vats.

We all then adjourned back to the shop where we could taste three ciders of varying age and alcohol content. Basically the older the cider, the better. We could also taste a perry made of pears which I really liked so I bought some to drink over the next few weeks. I have tried perry a number of times before and been quite unimpressed, but this stuff was very good with complex flavours and a long finish,

We had lunch at their cafe.

The ploughman's lunch. Delicious.

The alcohol content of the ciders and perry is a little high so when we got back to Upton, I had a well deserved nap.

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