Thatchers Cider in pictures – how it’s made from orchard to glass
PUBLISHED: 10:15 17 March 2017 | UPDATED: 10:15 17 March 2017
If you are anything like me, you will agree there are few better pleasures than enjoying a glass of ice-cold cider on a warm summer’s day. Having Thatchers on our doorstep is a bit of a treat, and the cider-maker gave me an insight into how its award-winning tipple is made.
Thatchers Cider has been making its cider at Myrtle Farm in Sandford, since 1904, when William Thatcher used to serve it to his farm workers.
Thatchers has more than 500 acres of orchard in Somerset where apples are grown for its ciders. An apple tree takes six or seven years to fruit fully after being planted.
Thatchers grows 25 different varieties of apple commercially, including bittersweet and culinary apples. Varieties include Dabinett, Katy, Somerset Redstreak and Prince William.
There is an exhibition orchard where it grows 458 varieties of cider-making apples, many of which are rare and being preserved for future generations.
Apples are harvested from the end of August through to November.
When the apples arrive at Myrtle Farm they are tipped into apple bays – the larger ones hold 100 tonnes of apples. All the apple deliveries are weighed and quality checked.
From the apple bays the apples enter the mill, where they are washed on the apple table before being mashed. The mash is pressed to extract the juice. Thatchers can press 450 tonnes of apples every day at the height of the season. How times have changed – back in the early 1950s just six tonnes of apples were pressed each day.
DID YOU KNOW? More than half the apples grown in the UK are used for cider-making.
During the fermentation process, special yeast is added to the apple juice, turning sugar into alcohol. The cider remains in temperature controlled fermentation tanks for eight days during which time all the natural apple character and flavours of the juice are brought out. After the cider is fermented it is racked to separate it from the yeast, before being blended.
The cider is matured in giant oak vats for around six weeks to give its distinctive character. The oak softens the tannins, enhancing the cider’s mellow and rich tones.
DID YOU KNOW? Thatchers has 11 oak vats, each more than 150 years old. Each vat is more than 30ft tall, and constructed from three-inch English oak staves. The largest vat holds around 135,500 pints of cider. The vats are all hand crafted and cared for by highly-experienced coopers.
While it is maturing, the cider in the vats is tasted regularly by the cider-makers.
DID YOU KNOW? At Myrtle Farm nothing goes to waste. Miscanthus grown in the fields, prunings from the orchards, and pomace from the cider-making process go to creating energy. Thatchers even has its own biomass boiler.
Once the cider has been tasted and the cider-makers say it is ready, it is then blended and ready for packaging. For pubs and clubs, much of the cider is kegged. The kegging line fills 450 kegs an hour and each keg contains 88 pints of cider.
DID YOU KNOW? The recipe for Thatchers’ traditional cider was created by second generation cider-maker Stan Thatcher, while the more modern Thatchers Gold is the UK’s second-biggest selling draught apple cider.
Thatchers bottles its ciders at Myrtle Farm. Up to 20,000 bottles can be filled every hour on its smart bottling line which features cutting-edge technology for filling, capping and labelling the bottles. As well as being delivered to customers in the UK, ciders bottled in Sandford are also shipped to customers around the world.
Thatchers has also just commissioned a brand new, world-class canning line, which means that all its packaging is carried out at Myrtle Farm.
Thatchers’ cider-makers continue to innovate. They have recently introduced three new limited-edition ciders.
The full Thatchers range is available at its cider shop at Myrtle Farm. You can also find them at the Railway Inn in Sandford.
If you fancy a pint, check out this guide to five North Somerset pubs we love.