A Broome Farm Cider Adventure
As I contemplate how far I should reach back with these retrospective posts, a very natural starting place seems to be with my year in England. Before I left for the UK Theresa, our dad Gord and I were successfully making cider on a very small scale and the idea of building a cider business together had started to take shape. We decided that if we wanted to learn how to make traditional English-style cider, it only made sense to go to the source to see how it was done. So, I quit my job and headed to England. With no plan and a lot of enthusiasm, I set out on my quest for cider knowledge.
The United Kingdom is by far the world’s largest producer of cider; with 75% of the UK’s cider being produced in the county of Herefordshire – it was a perfect place to start. As luck would have it, a few weeks after arriving I was invited to a locals’ night at Broome Farm, home of Ross-on-Wye Cider and Perry.
The moment I stepped into the cellar, I knew that I had found what I was looking for. A homage to traditional cider making the cider cellar at Broome Farm is truly a mecca for anyone looking for an authentic cider experience. Rustic and unpretentious, the small cellar with low ceilings and a stone floor is lined on two sides with barrels of cider waiting to be tapped. Though the cider and setting are enough to draw anyone in, it is the people that truly make Broome Farm special. Everyone who visits is immediately made to feel as though they are amongst friends.
By the time I left that evening I had been offered the opportunity to help out with next bottling run and invited to stay at the farm. Things were really starting to fall into place and the next week I moved into a caravan in the Broome Farm orchard and spent the rest of the year working on the farm.
As a place of learning, I really could not have found a better situation than Broome Farm. With 40 acres of orchards and over 70 varieties of cider apples and perry pears, the endless blending possibilities are a cidermaker’s dream. Mike Johnson, the owner and master cidermaker has been making cider for over 25 years and is generously willing to share his vast knowledge with all aspiring cidermakers.
Over the course of my year in the UK I made a point of taking every opportunity to experience the cider culture. I was able to participate in all stages of cider making from apple picking, through pressing, blending, bottling and tasting – a lot of tasting. I visited every cider festival and competition that I could find. When my mom, dad and Theresa came to visit we did a cider tour of Herefordshire, Gloucestershire and Somerset, stopping at every ciderhouse that we came across.
I could tell a hundred stories from my time at Broome Farm, but you are all probably tired of reading this by now. I will let these pictures of my time at Broome Farm tell the rest of the story.