COVID-19 and Llanblethian Orchards

As everyone knows, the human race is suffering the worst pandemic since the Spanish Flu. The news is changing daily and it is impossible to keep up with the twists and turns this disease is causing. Please keep safe in these troubling times and look out for your family, friends and neighbours.

Even our tiny cider company in the Vale of Glamorgan is feeling the knock on effects of the disease. For 2020 we had planned to go big and attend a whole slew of shows / events as well as bring back our popular fortnightly open bars at our barn.

As it stands all events we were planning to attend up till July have been cancelled so far, and it seems likely the rest will be cancelled as well. Given the government advice on avoiding public gatherings we have decided not to run any open bars at our barn for 2020 either until at least August and play it by ear to see if we can run any in August / September.

How does COVID-19 affect cider makers specifically?

Cider making is a very seasonal occupation. The fruit is harvested in the Autumn and pressed into juice. The juice is then fermented slowly over the Autumn and winter. It is ready for consumption in the spring.

Generally I find it starts to be ready in April and the slower fermenting ciders are about ready to serve by June. I sell the cider over the end of the spring and the summer with the majority sold by October and only a small percentage held back to keep customers supplied over the winter when sales are much slower. The whole process then starts over again in the next Autumn.

May has historically been the month to drink cider as it is at it’s freshest and it is when most cider competitions are held. In May I usually sell more than the next three months combined to put it into perspective.

Losing the end of the spring and potentially the summer is a hammer blow to cider makers. Due to our seasonal nature if we are unable to sell it in the summer then we will go into the autumn with a lot of left over cider that will potentially degrade in quality over the winter.

The duty system

It is also exacerbated by the duty system the small cider makers work under. Excise notice 162: Cider production if you are interested. I can make/sell 7,000 litres of cider to sell in a rolling 12 month period without paying duty but if I make 1 pint more I have to register with HMRC and pay duty on the whole lot.

In practice what this means is that if I am unable to sell all my cider in one 12 month period and carry it over to the next 12 month period I will have to produce less cider to ensure I am not over the 7,000 litre limit – or worse pay to dispose of all the old cider first!

In short it’s brown trousers time all round for us cider makers at present.

Is there anywhere you are currently supplying?

At present we are still supplying our regular micro-pubs in the South Wales area for as long as they stay open.

If you want our cider do please try the following:

Cathays Beer House

The Andrew Buchan

St Cannas Ale House

The Cellar Door

The Atig

If fact we are delivering two new ciders this week to our loyal customers:

Pride of Llanblethian 5.3%:

A wonderful, light, fruity sweet sharp cider made with apples from our orchard in Llanblethian.

Kingston Black SV. 4.8%:

Probably our of the best ciders we have ever made. We have cold racked a cider made out of Kingston Black apples from our orchard in Llanblethian multiple times until the fermentation stops early. This retains the natural sugars and fresh apple aromas and pairs them with the cider apple complexity of Kingston Black. Divine!

Pride of Llanblethian Craft Keg
Kingston Black SV cider

If you are a publican who needs cider do please get in touch we deliver between Swansea and Monmouth

Plan 9 – all the rest have gone to pot and it feels like we’re all living in a bad B-movie at present…

Markets / shops

I have signed up with the Vale of Glamorgan farmers market and will be running a stall on the first and third saturday of the month at the market in Cowbridge. On the second and fourth saturday of the month will be running a shop at my barn to keep everyone stocked up on ciders. The first stall will be Sat 4th April 2020 at Vale of Glamorgan farmers market. Details here.

Stock stall photo llanblethian orchards

For safety I will only be selling pre-packaged ciders and perries in 5L miniboxes of cider and perry as well as our brand new extensive bottled range of ciders and perries in 1/2 size mini champagne bottles. This is to avoid contamination risks of the coronavirus. Samples will be kept to a minimum as well to avoid the risk of contamination. We will be using plastic tables on our stall that will be regularly wiped down with strong steriliser and would request where possible people use contactless payment and keep cash to a minimum.

You can order specific ciders and perries in 10L and 20L bibs for parties beforehand to pick up on the day as well please feel free to drop me a message with what you need.

Home delivery service

Bang on mail order service

Our incredible friends at Bang-oN Brewery are launching a joint home delivery service to try and get all our products out to our customers and keep us all afloat. You can get the details here.

Basically, there is a minimum order value of £10 with free delivery around the Bridgend, Vale of Glamorgan and Cardiff postcodes. We will have our 5L mini boxes on there as well as our new range of bottles ciders and perries and our cider vinegar. (we can also make up 10 & 20L boxes on request as well) 

I keep mentioning a new bottled range of ciders…

2020 for Llanblethian Orchards is year of the bottle. I had planned to launch properly in May with a whole new range of products I’ve been working on quietly for several months now. As it stands, once the labels are done, the range will be launched.

The range includes:

Two different Normandy-style keeved ciders made with our own fruit together with two different keeved perries as well. As it’s the first year we a cider made out of the trees at the barn perhaps it’s the year for a wassail in the winter?

A single variety range of ciders and perries made from our orchard in Llanblethian so you can explore the qualities of the vintage fruit varieties we grow.

Brandy and potato pear bottle
A whole lotta bottles

Several cold racked craft ciders and perries. By studious cold racking in mid winter the fermentation is stopped early. This preserves the naturals sugars and apple aromas giving a lower alcohol cider with a rich fruity apple juice zing to it.

Dave Mathews from Bartlestree cider helped me source the bottles from Belgium and suggested I purchase a whole pile of different colour caps to easily identify the bottles. What a great idea, thanks Dave!

And finally

Please do stay safe everyone and follow the government advice. If we all pull together we will get through this trying time.

For all the doom and gloom in the media, when I go and check on my orchard I see the pear trees are preparing to flower, the bees are waking up and the pheasants are making a din as usual.

Life moves on, we’ve been through worse and we will survive!