It’s probably no surprise to those who know me, but rugby wasn’t really my sport at school. I could run but I was a bit of a scrawny lad. Consequently I’ve never fully understood the rules, but have always had a tremendous amount of respect for those that play what I’m sure you’l agree, is one of the toughest team sports around. So when I heard that a group of the Exeter Chiefs’ players had joined forces with Sandford Orchards to create a cider, I had to try it and hear about the story.
I’m going to summarise here as Barny Butterfield (Owner of Sandford Orchards) has written the whole story for their blog, link at the bottom. The driver for this project is that post career, half of all rugby players report financial concerns and over 60% suffer mental health issues. So Barny challenged a group of seven players to create a cider, from scratch to product launch.
They pressed it, blended it, did the market research, managed all the design work and bottled it. All of it to raise vital funds for their chosen two charities: The Exeter Chiefs Foundation and The Wooden Spoon. The fact that their club supported it as a development opportunity shows you all you need to know about their ethos. Their cause and attitude was contagious, with their designer Dean Sampson giving his time for nothing, which resulted in a very cool label and I hope the pictures I took do it justice; not only does it look like a rugby ball, it feels like one too.
So what does it taste like?
Well, it pours a bright straw colour with a slight haze. There are masses of bubbles and the smell is of sweet green apple with a hint of elderflower. Initial taste is of gentle acidity which then flows into a fruity sweetness. I have to say it reminds me a little of Sandford Orchard’s Collaborators cider. Despite the carbonation the mouthfeel is almost still and the bubbles are gone by the time I reach towards the bottom of a half pint. It’s a little sweeter than I usually drink, as Barny says “fruitier than most of our output, with the addition of fresh apple at blending it’s a juicy, fresh and easy pint.” Which explains the sweetness and I have to agree it’s a cracking session cider and is very drinkable.
I’ll finish by wishing the players every success with this venture and hope (as the guys say) to see it in a pub near me this summer.
If you want to read the whole Rib Tickler story check out the the Sandford Orchards site.
James Finch @thecidercriticFollow @TheCiderCritic
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