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The chancellor has announced that the government will retain the current duty exemption for small cider producers.

Thanks to your support we were able to hand in a petition with over 26,000 signatures urging the government to back small cider producers. On 8 July, the government responded positively in its budget.

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The Jolly Judge is hosting a Real Cider Festival on Wednesday 15th of July to Tuesday 21th of July

After the huge success of our spring cider festival, The Jolly Judge will be hosting its annual summer real cider and perry festival.

The festival will feature over 25 different ciders and perries from Gwatkin, Gwynt Y Ddraig, Hecks, Olivers, Cairn O’ Mhor, Thistly Cross, Westons and many more still to be confirmed.

For over six years the Jolly Judge has been in the estimable position of being one of the few pubs in Edinburgh to actively promote real draught cider on a permanent basis, and with great success. This will be our eighth festival and hopefully, with your discerning assistance, the best so far.

We believe that this will be a unique event that will offer a chance for the Edinburgh public and visitors to experience an expertly selected and diverse range of ciders not normally available in the capital.



Ahh, Springtime in Sussex – can only mean one thing – the largest cider and beer event on the South Coast – The Sussex Cider and Beer Festival.

It was my pleasure this year to be on the judging panel for the regional ciders that were submitted by 16 cider makers across the counties of Surrey, and East and West Sussex.

5 ciders were sampled between 3 groups, including the organisers of the Brighton Food Festival and Chris from Hallet’s Cider.

It was a mouth watering task, and great to have a team to bounce ideas off. However, it the ciders were graded on our personal tastes. On the following criteria – Aroma, Initial taste, finish / aftertaste, and personal enjoyment.

I would recommend you keep a note of ciders that you are trying, and mark out of 10 using this system. It’s really beneficial and will make you assess and understand the qualities of ciders and perries that are right for you. After all..

Don’t forget what may be one persons dry cider, may be someones elses medium!

My personal favourite ciders from this area are Oakwood ciders from Robertsbridge (who won last at years festival), and Wild Thing from Portslade. Both full of flavour, and very memorable, and they really stand apart from the crowd, which was the case for this tasting. They are also generally the first to sell out at the Sussex and South downs festivals respectively.

The overall winners of the 2015 cider competition at Sussex Beer Festival were:

1st – Village Green Cider ‘Medium Cider’
2nd – Portslade ‘Medium Wild Thing Cider’
3rd – Black Pig Orchard ‘Medium Dry Cider’

You will be able to taste these ciders at the next county Cider festival at Lewes in June. Otherwise get down to Middle Farm, where you’ll find them at the National collection of cider and perry.

It is great that others are enjoying the time and enthusiasm that goes into making Village Green Cider

Looking forward to showing some of CAMRAs cider drinkers around the cider house and the additional publicly and new drinkers the Village Green Cider will now have.

Ben Fairall, owner of Village Green Cider

We don’t need an excuse to visit the beautiful and grand venue of Stanmer House, near Brighton.

It’s based in Stanmer village which has an old Sussex feel, a great start, or finish to an adventure in the South Downs National Park.

Aspall's My wife and I attended an evening at Stanmer House hosted by the Suffolk cider maker Aspall. 8 generations of family members have hand crafted cyder in the market town of Debenham. I know of 6 generations of family members like Heck’s in Somerset, but I think to my knowledge, Aspall are the oldest craft cider makers in the UK.

The evening was intriguing as we were asked to compare how the wine and cider’s that we were tasted either complemented the food, or otherwise. There were about 20 people in the room, mostly wine drinkers.

So how did the Real Cider compare with the already established food and wine matching?

First up was scallops as a starter – we had the Aspall draught cider which really energised the pallette and the fruit taste brought out the seafood flavours. A genuine still real cider, a mixture of Eastern county bittersweet apples and West Country cider apples.

A memorable experience and great start! We also had a white wine which was far too acidic, and destroyed the delicate tastes from the scallops.

Imperial-Vintage-500ml-BottleThen main course, sliced duck fillet with a fruit gravy. Of course the wine choice was a rich red wine. Which, for me, numbed the pallette and striped the mouth of any flavours from this meal.

The cider on the other hand, the Imperial Vintage which was a pleasure to sip – a dry start with a sweet mellow finish. Enjoyed in a wine glass, and the ambience of Stanmer House – a strong contender and winner for me here.

Then an assortment of rich deserts, where we had a desert wine and a fruit cider containing redcurrant and blackberries, Isabel’s berry. Both complemented the deserts, and it really was a close match here, and I would say would depend on your own preference for sweetness, and whether you like sparkling or still. The berry was like a desert itself, floral and moorish. I can imagine this will be a popular drink this summer time.

The overall winner of the evening

.. was Cider, getting double the number of votes to wine. 24 to 12 respectively. Even the long standing wine fans were swayed by the apple!

All in all, a great event and a great opportunity to learn and enjoy Aspall’s fine ciders.

If you are in Brighton, look out for them on draught at Indigo pubs chains.

Since the 1976 Budget which brought cider into the alcohol duty schedule. The exemption, has served the cider resurgence well and has helped create a wonderful collection of regional ciders.

The European Commission recently notified the UK Govt that the 7000L Duty Exemption currently utilised by small-scale real craft cider and perry producers contravenes EU legislation. They are threatening legal action unless the UK Government comes up with a satisfactory response.

The EU are threatening something that doesn’t affect big producers, notably a £2,500-a-year tax bill which looks to shrink the ever growing popularity of craft cider.

As a small cider producer starting out, it would be almost impossible for me to move from a hobby into a small commercial business if the exemption didn’t exist. Sam S

The Small Brewery Duty Relief Scheme has helped many small breweries, but Cider makers are not eligible for this, and as such it’s already hard to even break even – we can’t mass produce real cider it takes 8 months to make.

What damage the clampdown will cause to livelihoods as well as ancient orchards is hard to estimate. Cider makers will not want to pay this so they will either end what must be England’s oldest drink, make cider discreetly, or wait to be shut down by EU. None of these are suitable options.

In January 2015, George Osborne and David Cameron visited a cider maker, Hecks – where Osborne reiterated that the South West could be the equivalent of the thriving west coast of the US as he launched the “long-term” economic plan. Not if the EU have their way. We have to make a noise to local MP’s to stop this action. We are talking about a rich heritage and history of cider in the West Country being shut down by EU.

Small craft cider makers are the upholding a tradition. This small tax break is the only way many can survive. Craig S

This will change the way farms have switched over in recent years from intensive farming to craft cider making as a sustainable business. As well as changing the local landscape and biodiversity into forgotten orchards, or worse still – destroyed to make way for other ways of making ends meet financially.

Who is going to go round collecting this tax from small scale cider makers in their garden sheds and outbuildings?

If you want your voice to be heard and help real cider, contacting you local MPs would be a good starting point.

Keep up to date with all the latest information at the SAVE OUR REAL CIDER Facebook group.

Update – 5th March 2015

I was asked to provide information for an article the Sun newspaper ran today. Click on image for large version.