The Great Cider Debate

AVE Services provide equipment for the Innovative Farmers great cider debate for the third year running. 

On the 2nd January at St. Edmund’s Hall in the centre of Oxford, to kick off the Innovative Farmers Conference, 4 panellists from Cider producers took to the stage to talk about and answer questions about their product. 

On the panel & bringing the cider were:

Barny is a first generation organic farmer and passionate cider maker. Sandford Orchards has grown from a means of supplementing a meagre agricultural wage, to a beacon of quality production and an employer of 20+ staff.

Barny began his business by picking up fallen fruit from orchards which had become unviable and unharvested. And this is where the biggest secret lay. The old Devon varieties lying in the grass were the recipe for a huge revival in true cider making in the area. One that has seen over 70 acres of new orchard planted in the last few years alone. Sandford Orchards are proof that despite decline in mass-market product, honest high quality and full flavoured cider remains in rude health.

Barny & Sandford Orchards have won The John Neason Award for Progressive Farming. CAMRA Champion Cider of Great Britain, The Supreme Champion Product for the Westcountry in 2018 and The Golden Fork for supreme Westcountry product 2017.

  • Henry Chevallier Guild, Aspall

Henry is one half of the eighth generation of the Chevallier family involved in Aspall, the premium cyder, vinegar and apple juice producer based in Suffolk. He and his brother Barry re-launched the Aspall vinegar brand, and then expanded the cyder business beyond its very focused and centralised Suffolk heartland.

Despite selling the business in January 2018 to Molson Coors, Henry and Barry remain close to the operation in Suffolk, helping with business strategy and communication. Henry also spends time on the estate managing the family’s apple orchards.

He has always been a passionate advocate for the apple, and the effect the numerous varieties, regions and growing conditions have on this most British of drinks.

Cider and Perry is in Albert’s blood. The Johnson family have been pressing cider at Broome Farm since the 1930s. All their cider and perry is pressed on the farm, mainly from their own fruit.

Ross on Wye Cider & Perry’s scale of production allows them to make small batches of single variety and blends. Recognising the value of blending allows them to create ciders with more depth of flavour, giving mixtures of acidity, tannin, astringency as well as varying aromas and aftertastes. This means working with a wide range of varieties from Bittersharps such as Foxwhelp, Browns or Frederick to bittersweets like Dabinett, Yarlington Mill and Major.

A field lab host himself, Albert joined forces with his cousin, a sheep farmer, who grazes 45 ewes in his orchard. A venture that had multiple benefits for both.
Albert grew up climbing on apple piles and drinking shandy. It was never a sure thing that he would become a farmer in adulthood. But after studying international politics, he found himself drawn back to the farm. As it turns out making alcohol gets you a lot of friends.

Since Henry Weston founded Westons Cider in the Herefordshire village of Much Marcle in 1880 there have been five generations of Westons spanning the business. Helen Thomas, Henry’s great-granddaughter, became its first female Managing Director in 1996. During her 20+ years in the role Helen has spearheaded Westons’ growth, increasing turnover from £5.5m to £60m. The company now employs two hundred and thirty people. 

Helen is a past Chair of the National Association of Cider. She became the first female to be appointed Chair in 2005 and recently undertook a second two-year term between 2016 and 2018. 

She was appointed as a Deputy Lieutenant in 2011 and is a Trustee of both John Masefield High School and the Hereford Cider Museum. 

Helen is keen to take part in the Great Cider Debate because cider making is very much part of her own personal history. And for many years she has taken an active interest in the organic movement.

Chairing the discussion:

AVE Services provided for the debate:

  • Wireless Lapel Microphones
  • Wireless Handheld Microphones
  • 4 Speaker PA System
  • Technician

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