ALE Summer 1997 No. 288

Cassels' Cider

Great Shelford, Cambridgeshire

"Oh let the cider flow.
In ploughing and in sowing,
The healthiest drink I know
In reaping and in mowing. "

A naturally dry "real" cider, hand-pressed and fermented in Cambridgeshire by James and Lucy Cassels. Probably the first commercially produced cider in the history of Cambridgeshire.

The cider is made from only pure English apple juice. No presevatives or additives are used.

Juice from Organic West Country cider apples is blended with local culinary and desert varieties.

Alcohol by volume in 1997 is around 6.2%. This varies each year depending on the sugar content of the apples.

Reflections on a year in Cider by Jim Cassels

Cassels cider was first introduced to a wider public in the Cambridge area a year ago, so now seems an appropriate time to reflect on the story so far.

Early cider memories came from growing up amongst the declining cider apple orchards of Devon and visits to farm sales with my Dad, where, in dingy barns, tweedy locals gossipped and helped themselves to a golden liquid that ran from the taps of enormous (or so they seemed at the time) oaken barrels.

It was not until as a teenager at boarding school (still in Devon) that I started to drink much cider, when idle week-ends were spent in the pursuit of oblivion. Bicycles were procured (with menaces from junior boys) and illicit visits made to local cider farms. The resultant hazy orange liquid was carefully transported back avoiding Slug's house (Slug being the fearsome physics master). The gallon containers were hidden, submerged in a nearby stream overnight, and retrieved the following day for consumption, refreshingly chilled. The meadows where all that oblivion was achieved have now become the Tiverton by-pass.

Leaving school and moving away from Devon ushered in a few dry years (of cider anyway) until the move to our present house in Great Shelford, where we inherited a handful of apple trees. In the second autumn, having been dismayed at all that fruit rotting on the ground, a basket press and crusher were hired and the whole family set to work. Great fun, and the resultant juice was eagerly consumed, but the eventual cider was far too acid, the result of a glut of cookers. In subsequent years we improved the blend and built up production, and consumption.

Going commercial resulted from the enthusiasm we received from entering a couple of mini beer festivals, and especially from John Walsh of East Beds CAMRA and APPLE committee member. We also had the feeling that the area could do with a decent local cider.

Spring 1996, and the first batch of 1000 gallons came on stream, the product of much toil, anguish and our first primitive equipment, plus any pressganged help we could muster. What emerged was a cider made from a blend of both local and west country fruit, fermented to a lovely natural dryness with nothing added.

Following a few phone calls, the cider started to sell steadily. Thanks go to David Short of the Oueen's Head, Newton and Nick Winnington of the Cambridge Blue, old friends who were early supporters of the cause, and to Pete Gray at the Live and Let Live. Other outlets followed - The Wrestlers, Jug & Firkin, Elm Tree, Ancient Druids, Waggon & Horses (Milton) - as well as beer festivals, including Olympia. Particular praise was received from a Scotsman ringing early one Monday morning having just returned home from Newcastle Beer Festival, where he had found the Cassels well worth the four hour drive.

So here we are, a year on and the 96 vintage is going out, equipment up-graded and production increased by 50%. Our own small orchard of rare cider varieties should shortly be augmenting the supply of fruit. As to the future, we hope to be around for many years to come and to grow steadily to make the cider more widely available. So if you get a chance, try a glass, and don't forget your nomination for Champion Cider of Britain at the GBBF.

ALE Summer 1997 No. 288 : Next section
Cambridge & District CAMRA