By Hannah Gray, Account Manager
When you think of HEINEKEN, you probably don’t think of apples, do you? Well, here’s a fun fact for you – an incredible 30% of all the apples grown in the UK are grown in the company’s orchards and used to produce their extensive range of ciders, which include bestsellers, Strongbow, Bulmers and Old Mout, to name a few. That’s just short of 130,000 TONNES of apples, grown in the 10,000 acres of orchards managed by the company and their farmers. So with HEINEKEN introducing some exciting, new ciders into their portfolio in the months ahead, we felt it was high time we took some leading drinks journalists down to Hereford to visit the orchards and see how the ciders are made, from pip to sip.
So it was that early on a not-so-sunny November morning, I embarked on a train journey with seven drinks writers to Hereford. Following a hearty pub lunch on arrival, we headed to the Cider Museum in Hereford where we learnt about the history of Bulmers cider, from its founding in Hereford in 1887 by brothers Fred and Percy Bulmer. The museum is open to the public and well worth a visit if you’ve got an interest in this fascinating drink and want to learn a bit more about its colourful history.
We then donned our wellies for a tour of one of HEINEKEN’s grower’s orchards where the farmer told us all about the growing process and lifecycle of the cider apple. Finally, we headed over to HEINEKEN’s mill in nearby Ledbury, which operates around-the-clock, seven days a week during the 12-week picking season. The sights and smells here were incredible. This is the final stop for the apple in its entirety, before it’s processed at the mill to produce the fruit concentrate for the cider.
After a fascinating afternoon on the farm and at the mill, we were ready for some food (and warmth!) so we travelled back to our cosy accommodation for the night – a large house on the edge of Hereford, surrounded by orchards of its own – where HEINEKEN’s cider director, Emma Sherwood-Smith, talked to the journalists about the opportunity within the category and gave them a sneak preview of the company’s latest cider launch (an exciting collaboration with some of their most innovative growers – set to hit shelves in March 2017). This was followed by a tasting and a delicious dinner, with each course carefully matched with different ciders to bring out their various flavour profiles.
After a rather intense game of Articulate, it’s safe to say that we retired to our beds extremely well fed and watered… and most importantly, with an in-depth insight into the country’s largest cider producer and their apples.