Hallets Cider is based near the Brecon Beacons in Wales and it's very much a family affair, with Andy and his step-son Andrew in charge of the cider house and Ann running the show in the office. It's a team effort and one that seems to be bringing great results as Hallets Cider goes from strength to strength. We caught up with Andy to find out more about the current setup and his thoughts on the industry.
1. You are a cidery is based in Caerphilly near the Brecon Beacons? Why here?
We bought our farm in 2001 to get out of the city and into the countryside. It took us a little while to work out what to do with the farm buildings and 25 acres but finally settled on cider and orchards. So we live and work on our farm. We (Andy and Annie) built up the business on our own but our son Andrew joined in 2016 which has allowed further expansion and a sharing of the workload.
2. How long have you been producing cider/perry for on a commercial basis?
It was a hobby for the first few years but I’d say in 2006 we made the decision to scale it up into a fully commercial enterprise. Prior to that we made up to 7000 litres which kept us below the HMRC duty line so when we decided to increase production we had to make a considerable leap in the number of litres we pressed as the duty has to be paid on all the cider, with no exemption.
3. What are the most difficult challenges you face as a cider-maker?
HMRC Duty at over 40p per litre! It is a heavy burden on the business. The milling and pressing season is always very cold and the tree pruning is also done in the winter, which can be very hard on the sole! Our farm is 1000 feet above sea level so always a little colder. This also means our orchards have taken a bit longer to mature but we are now getting a decent crop from our 1200 trees.
4. If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be?
HMRC Duty! Change the industry’s perception of cider so people understand the distinction between ‘fruit ciders, scrumpy and craft cider. There’s a lot of people trying to do this but sometimes it feels like an uphill struggle.
5. What is your top-selling cider/perry?
Our Hallets Real Cider 6% in 500 and 330ml bottles is the best seller. This cider has won many awards and was key to the BBC Radio 4 Food and Farming Award we won in 2016.
6. What makes your cider/perry different?
Not many cider makers will tie up tank space to age their cider in the way that we do. Malolactic fermentation is risky and requires a high level of skill and care. We age Dabinett in this way to blend our bottled cider giving it its unique flavour. We also spend a lot of time reading and learning about the cider-making process, flavour profiles, chemistry, detecting faults etc. which means nothing leaves the farm that we are not 100% happy with.
7. Favourite apple/pear variety?
Browns are probably our favourite as they give a sherbet like flavour which is different from any other cider apple.
8. What's the key to producing a good cider/perry?
The quality of the fruit is key, the skill and experience of the cider makers and a very high standard of cleanliness. Good hygiene is definitely very important. You need to understand what makes a good, clean, balanced cider and that takes experience and skill.