You may have noticed we’re having a festival.
It’s a celebration of music and musicians and of cider and of having a good time.
We’ve got a few surprises up our sleeve, but we’ve already announced a fantastic line up that should secure a great crowd.
- Rock goddesses The Pearl Harts
- Local soulsters Millie Mae
- Folkestone trio Rudy Warman & the Heavy Weather
- Hackney alt rock outfit MOTH TRAP
- Surfer dude Lee Golledge
- 50s R&B band The Devil’s Cut Combo
- Soulful singer songwriter Daniel Glover
It’s a really young exciting line up of original artists. We’re so proud to have them playing the first Harvest Music Festival.
If you want to come along make sure you buy a ticket in advance from See Tickets to avoid missing out.
We’re going to have a party. You don’t want to miss it!
I’ve never been so pleased to come fourth.
Just to get some recognition for our cider is great, and of all places at the British Cider Championships at the Bath & West Show, in the heart-land of West Country cider.
You see we make Eastern Counties cider. Made from only eating and cooking apples, with no bittersweet cider apples. We do that because these are the apples that grow in our back garden in Marden.
But some say it’s not true cider because it doesn’t contain true cider apples. They say Eastern Counties cider has “no backbone”. What they mean is that it’s very low on the tannins that cider apples bring. But it has other qualities: many like it because it is light, it’s refreshing and, at it’s best, comparable to a good white wine. And most people I know prefer it to a West Country cider.
Our Dry Cider was “Very Highly Commended” by Bath & West judges including Martin Thatcher of Thatcher’s Cider, Nick Bradstock of the National Association of Cider Makers and Commander Rupert Best, Master of the Worshipful Company of Fruiterers.
It’s a blend of five dessert apple varieties selected because they grow in the orchards around Marden and because they each have different characteristics – both as eating apples and as ciders.
Many are grown organically, all are grown for the fresh market (ie not for juice) and all are hand-picked from the tree in the Autumn.
We then ferment the apple juices separately over the Winter months before blending in the Spring. This year’s Dry Cider blend took several attempts – but we got there in the end.
We were happy with it and happy to talk proudly about it when selling to customers. But it’s also nice to get some external recognition.
I’m on my way to the Bath & West Show where we have two of our ciders entered in what they say is the world’s biggest cider competition.
Of all our ciders it’s the Dry Cider and Medium Cider that I’m most proud of.
The Dry Cider is a blend of five dessert apple varieties, each chosen for a different characteristic that they bring – colour, aroma and, of course, flavour. We then blend them in different proportions so they complement each other and we get a balanced drink.
One of the fascinating things this year is how different each variety was to the previous year. My tasting notes show some marked changes in characteristics. No surprise really, the growing conditions in 2013 and 2014 couldn’t have been more different.
But it meant that we had to redo the Dry Cider blend. It took a few goes but I think we’ve got it.
Our Medium Cider is a different blend of dessert and culinary apples, whereas last year we just sweetened the Dry. I think it’s a more interesting drink for the new blend.
We sweeten it with fresh-pressed apple juice, rather than sugar or an artificial sweetener, which adds a new dimension.
Unlike the Dry Cider it’s pasteurised, though both are unfiltered.
I can’t wait to see them in the cider and orchards tent at the show today. Apparently there’ve already been some comments about how different they look to the majority of entrants!
Life takes some funny twists and turns. I’m still learning to open myself to the possibilities.
When I had a call from Russia last summer asking about the possibility of exporting our cider, I presumed it was a joke. I was still operating Turners Cider out of our garden shed. But my Russian caller had tasted our Dry Cider in the Harp in Covent Garden and liked it and could he come and visit my “cider factory” in Marden and perhaps visit our “tasting room”.
In hindsight I did everything I could to put them off.
You’re very welcome to visit the cider factory and have a tasting in the tasting room, I said, but please understand that both those places are my garden shed, where I also keep the lawn mower.
Anyway Konstantin and Nataly duly came to Marden on a scorching hot summer’s day and we stood in my over-heating shed and drank my cider. I then took them for a tour of Peter Hall’s orchards in Marden, where we source most of our fruit, and for a meal in The Stile Bridge, where they drank some more of my cider (I drank beer).
That day was also notable for the last minute panic of May’s lost passport and a mad rush to Liverpool to get a new one before we travelled to Spain for our summer holiday. (We think one of the children tidied the passport into the kitchen bin, though we’ll never know.)
Nine months later and Konstantin and Nataly have just visited Marden again. This time they brought vinegar factory owner Yury so May could teach him the fundamentals of chutney making.
And now we’re about to send our first shipment to their pub Hamilton’s in Belgorod. We’re in fine cider company, on the bar at Hamilton’s along side Hecks, Hallets and Hogan’s.
I never thought we’d be sending cider to Russia. But I love selling to people who love our cider, wherever they are.
Brogdale Collections have today confirmed our bar at the 2015 Kent Cider Festival.
It’s on 29-30 August at Brogdale Farm, near Faversham. That’s the home of the national fruit collection.
Last year Sam (pictured), Ross and I had a great time running the bar. The cider festival is always full of characters and we met them all.
We’ll be in the Cider Barn again. See you there…
What a start to the year!
First I came off my Honda on the way to see some pears. That was last weekend. Some of Redwall Lane is still in my leg and so I’m an invalid. (The pears will have to wait).
Then the following weekend some kid smashed his Merc into the back of our Audi in south London. And then sped off! He was either pissed or stoned or on the phone or didn’t know how to drive. So now May has whiplash and a buggered car.
Through all this I’m trying to make sure the cider is okay. Much of what we pressed before Christmas is fully fermented, but I’ve got some Russets and some Ida Red in full fermenting flow at the moment. The pressure 5,000 litres of fermenting juice puts on the stainless steel tank lids is so great that I need to keep a close eye on it pushing them off.
Don’t tell Health & Safety but I was up a ladder on my crutches this morning checking on the airlocks.
We’ve got a bit more pressing to do of some fruit that’s in cold store. But that will have to wait until I have two functioning legs again.
In the meantime it was fun over Christmas to get the final batch of last year’s dry cider bottled. I’ve saved these for samples to take around the pubs in the coming weeks as we start to sell in the new cider. I’ve got a killer list of all my favourite Kent and London pubs and I intend to personally visit them all with a sample in hand.
2015 is all set to get a lot better!
We can chart the development of Turners Cider by the Brogdale Cider Festival, where we’ll be this weekend.
Two years ago I took May and Wilfred for the first time. We’d just been on holidays and I made this video when we got back from Faversham.
Last year (Teddy had come along by now) Brogdale was one of the first places we sold our bag-in-box ciders. We had 20 litres behind the Tiddly Pomme bar and I was very proud of it. Here’s me looking proud. Check out the early incarnation of the label and Turner & Co. name.
This year we have our own Turners Cider bar in the Cider Barn. I have my brothers-in-law – my brothers-in-arms – Sam and Ross helping out, which is where it all started for us. Sam and Ross and the whole family (and all the neighbours for that matter) have helped get Turners Cider to where it is now. From pressing outside in the Autumn rain, to helping out with deliveries to testing the produce, this has been a family enterprise from the start.
As for where we go next, watch this space. In the last few days I’ve spent enough money on cider equipment to buy a small house in Doncaster. Now we have to make it pay for itself.
We’ve had a few compliments on our labels so I thought I’d share how the design came about.
It was quite simple really. Taking inspiration from the likes of The Kernel Brewery, we wanted to:
- keep it simple
- take nothing away from the product
- make it immediately identifiable as a craft product
So we started out with the things that we’re legally obliged to put on the bottle:
- the name of the product
- the alcohol content
- the quantity of liquid
- whether it contains sulphites (some people are allergic)
- our address
- the batch number or bottled on date
And then we added the words that got across what we wanted to say about our cider.
As with Bob Dylan’s Like a Rolling Stone this started out as a lengthy discourse on the nature of the thing (Bob started out with a 20 page long “piece of vomit” about the spoiled brat Miss Lonely that he pared down into the greatest song of all time).
And that got cut and cut until we were left with the minimal amount of words required.
Those words were “made with 100% Kentish apples”.
Those few words tell you a lot about our cider. They tell you its a craft product. Craft to me means handmade, by me, with care and attention to detail in everything from the fruit we use to the methods we use to the way we package and brand the thing.
100% Kentish apples tells you that our cider is made solely from apples. (You may ask what else would it be made of, but that’s for another discussion). And that it’s a product of Kent. We use only Kentish dessert and culinary fruit, no bittersweet apples. Not because we don’t like bittersweets, but because we want to use local apples and we like the light, refreshing “Eastern counties” style of cider they produce.
(I’m using the Royal ‘we’: to be specific I mean me, my wife and most of the people of Kent. Who knows, in time maybe we’ll convince some of the people of Somerset of the merits of this style of cider too?)
The final thing to put on the label was a name. I toyed with a list of names, most of them ridiculous, in hindsight. But in the end it was an easy decision.
On a visit to Jersey my old school friend (a ‘Thorp’) said you’re a Turner, that’s a great English name. If you’re proud of your product and your business, you put your name on it. That’s what people have always done.
I was persuaded. And because we’re so proud of our village and its appley heritage we added “Marden, Kent”.
We put all those words in the font we use. It’s called Veneer and we like it because it reminds us of the writing on our traditional apple bins and crates.
And then we stopped. We didn’t add anything else, no pictures, no stories.
There are a couple of things we haven’t added but perhaps should.
We don’t have an ingredients list. We’re not obliged to (which is, arguably, odd), though we’ve got nothing to hide. Our cider contains apples, sulphites (which have been used for centuries to kill off any bacteria) and pectolase (which helps the juice clear).
We haven’t said that our cider is unfiltered.
And we haven’t said that it’s unpasteurised, though I expect that as we grow and sell to more retailers we’ll start to pasteurise.
So that’s it, how to build a label 101. Let me know if you have any questions: firstname.lastname@example.org
We’ve just dropped 40 litres of Turners Cider at Merton Farm in Canterbury for the 40th Kent CAMRA beer festival.
It gets going tonight and runs til Saturday night.
To mark the anniversary they tell us they’ve got 40 ciders (most from Kent), 40 foreign beers and literally a shed load of British beers.