Hoo mama do those boys in Batlow know their apples! They have been growing them over there since before TV was invented so where else would you go if you were sourcing fruit for your cider? Well the fellas as Batlow Cider Co. did exactly that. They went to the source and made one of the best traditional Ciders in the Southern Hemisphere (in our humble opinion) just like back in the old country.
To celebrate the fact the the Blind Monk has this delicious nectar flowing from it's taps now, we caught up with our mate Rich Coombs at Batlow to get a bit of an insight into what makes a man turn to apples, and he’s even gone and shared his secret recipe for Mulled Batlow Cider with The Blind Monk, we did a super-limited pouring of on friday night, just in time for the cold snap! Boom.
BM: What made you decide to jump in and start brewing Rich?
Rich: We discovered real cider in the UK, our dad used to live in London, so whilst enjoying quality real ale from the hand-pump, we came across traditionally made UK cider. When we got back to Australia and only found a handful of multinational cider brands in the fridge it started a pipe dream to make our own top quality cider.
BM: When you first began, did you stumble across your amazing recipe or did you start with an end taste in mind?
Rich: There was a fair amount of research involved (one of my favorite pastimes running a cider company!). We had an end taste profile in mind which was to create a clean refreshing style and well balanced in terms of sweetness and acidity, rather than being super sweet. Being in partnership with Batlow Apples means we could experiment with about 10 different apple varieties.
BM: Are you like most of us, a functioning alcoholic, or do you manage to keep yourself under control despite the fact you are surrounded by booze and cider all day?
Rich: I love the industry but yes try and keep a balance. Recently I was sampling a GABS entry beer at 8am before Good Beer Week in Melbourne. It actually tasted great and I finished the glass, which was a little worrying, ha!
BM: What has been the biggest challenge with your brewing?
Rich: Cider production has it's own technical challenges compared to wine and beer. There are fermentable residual sugars and being a low abv around 5%, that's a delicate environment so the right controls need to be put in place.
BM: Where do you see the craft beer/cider industry going?
Rich: It's a bloody exciting time for the craft beer & cider industries. It will keep evolving, we have so many great options now to choose from and the benchmark is very high. I think we'll increasingly see consumers turning toward craft - they taste better, come from a place of real passion and have a story behind them.
BM: Do you mainly drink cider or do other beverages really get you going?
Rich: We drink a lot of different cider; I personally love some of the more traditional French Styles. We also love our craft beer, nothing beats a fresh pint of beer after a long day talking about Cider!
BM: You are consistently brewing the same ciders now, do you still love to get in and invent new ones?
Rich: Absolutely. We made Spiced Belgian Apple Ale recently in collaboration with Bright Brewery, which was fun. A big biscuity Belgian with spicy apple notes. We have plans for some seasonal products and have been working on a few new things recently. Watch this space!Â
BM: There is talk of cans coming back in, your thoughts - bottles or cans?
Rich: Tinnies definitely have their place, but it will take some time for craft products to be accepted in them. Tinnies are a bit of a novelty now, but over time I think they will become much more prominent. We make them, mainly for events and festivals that have "no glass" policies. PlusÂ logistically they are simpler -Â they weigh 9kg a case rather than 15kg and you stack more onto a pallet. We love tinnies but they won't replace bottles.
BM: Favorite beer or cider other than your own? (I know it's hard)
Rich: Favourite Cider? Eric Bordelet out of France is one of the world's best, and locally; Willies, Hills, St Ronan's, Napoleone and Small Acres make great quality ciders. Beer wise; Founders All Day IPA, Lord Nelson Three Sheets, Feral Hop Hog, Stone & Wood Pacific Ale, Thirsty Crow's Vanilla Milk Stout and Yeastie Boys' Gunnamatta are all crackers!
BM: When can we get you into The Blind Monk for a session?