Cider - the taste of Herefordshire
PUBLISHED: 13:35 21 October 2009 | UPDATED: 16:18 20 February 2013
If you ask Herefordians what is the one thing that distinguishes us from other counties, many will say one word - cider.
Cider is a national drink that we will claim as our heritage. Some folk further south of us, and maybe a little west, may beg to differ but hey, what do they know? I may well be biased as my family has been involved in cider production in Herefordshire since 1727. You can though, trace cider in Herefordshire back
to at least the 1600s, when several enterprising producers would boast about bottling their 'sider' and shipping it to London. It is believed that there were more cider than ale houses in London during the reign of Charles II. Cider was officially the drink of the people. The rise of cider was aided by the supply to farm workers. The majority of farms would have had a few cider apple trees as well as cooking and dessert apple trees in the orchards, and it became customary in the 18th century to pay part of a farm labourer's wage in cider, some
receiving a fifth of their wage in liquid form. A typical allowance would have been three to four pints per man per day. Labourers were rated by the amount they drank; one comment was that a twogallon a day man was worth the extra he drank. Now this would seem to be a pay philosophy that some of my staff at Saxtys in Hereford would love to have, and although some would certainly earn the right to receive two gallons a day, I'm not sure if 16 pints could be consumed on a daily basis. I suppose it puts the binge drinking headlines we see in some national papers into perspective. Today the production of cider is big business. You can choose from dozens of suppliers and a host of different styles of cider from low alcohol right up to 8% strong vintage ciders. This wide alcohol range gives plenty of scope to make different and enjoyable ciders. One of the up and coming drinks is
perry. The making of perry, the pear equivalent to cider, is traditional, especially in Herefordshire, and is making a comeback into the market. I am excited by this. My grandfather was always a big believer in perry and he would be a very happy man if he could see the renewed interest in the product, although he would be disgusted at some companies calling it pear cider!