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As the old adage goes, an apple a day keeps the doctor away. If this applies to cider, then my trip to Westons Cider Mill in Herefordshire is even sweeter! I was invited along last year for a special, behind-the-scenes tour to see how they make their cider and of course, test out a few samples!
Westons Cider Mill is situated in the picturesque Much Marcle, about 40 minutes drive from the centre of Gloucester. The enticing scent of apples infused the whole area and got the tastebuds working before I even set foot inside the mill.
We started off with the history of the site, which has been producing cider for 137 years. Originally a cattle farm, cider was a by-product made as part-payment for the farm workers. Apparently back in those days, cider was cleaner than water, and there are even records of babies being baptized in cider at Hereford Cathedral!
Next we were shown the original presses where the crushed apples where enclosed in fabric and horse hair and pressed using huge stones to release the juice.
Nowadays the process is much more modern, as we were shown on the next part of our tour, but tradition still plays an important role.
There was more history and tradition to be explored in the museum, with even more old cider making equipment, bottles and carts to really see where this brand came from, before we moved on to the actual cider making process.
The cider mill runs almost like clockwork, from the apples being delivered by van, tractor or lorry into huge hoppers…
… to being sorted in this rather awesome machine…
… to being pressed, fermented, then aged in these gigantic oak barrels, named after towns, Henry Weston’s daughters and favourite football teams, among other endearing things!
The majority of the barrels at Westons are made from oak from the Forest Of Dean, which gives the cider a unique personality and flavour. The oldest of the barrels – Hereford, Gloucester and Worcester – date back to the 1880’s. The largest barrel – Squeak – holds 40,000 gallons of cider! The barrels are still maintained by one of the last coopers in the country.
After a tantaslising trip around the production facility, we got to take an afternoon stroll through one of the orchards before we stopped for lunch.
At lunch we finally got our first taste of cider – Mortimer’s Orchard – a premium cider with a lovely fruitiness and hints of vanilla.
All the dishes on the menu feature cider in some way too. I went for cider baked ham with fried egg and chips, proper comfort food! You could indeed taste the cider in it too.
To finish off, we tried Rosie’s Pig Flat Tyre rhubarb cider, which tastes just like rhubarb and custard boiled sweets. Delicious, but somewhat dangerous as it really didn’t taste like alcohol!
Then it was off for an afternoon of science in the tasting laboratory!
We got to try the base alcohol that all Westons Ciders are made from, which is technically an apple wine, rather than a cider, due to its strength.
The difference in the flavours was quite amazing. The wineiness (is that even a word?) was diminished and the refreshing apple flavours really came through in the Caple Road, while the Damson was sweet and fruity without being too sickly. A perfect summer drink.
After our tasting experience we headed back to the shop, where the lovely people at Westons gifted us a crate of our choice of cider to take home. It was a tough call between the Caple Road and one of the Rosie’s Pig fruit ciders, but in the end I went for the Rosie’s Pig Flat Tyre rhubarb cider.
I headed back to Gloucester station with a full belly and an armful of cider! Considering I’ve never been much of a cider drinker, my experience at Westons truly has me converted, and I always look out for their ciders when I’m out and about.
I’m writing this as the first signs of Spring are creeping in – lighter evenings, sun shining – meaning that cider weather is almost upon us, so if you fancy your own tour of Westons Cider Mill, you can book online for just £10 per adult, including a cider tasting in the shop for over 18’s.
Have you been to Westons Cider Mill before? What did you think? And what’s your favourite cider?
I was invited to Westons Cider Mill as a guest, meaning my entry fee, lunch and crate to take home were all complimentary, many thanks to the team at Westons. I was under no obligation to write a positive review and all opinions are, as always, my own.
If you decide to buy any of the ciders linked to in this post, I will earn a small commission through the Amazon Associates programme.