Where to go for the tastiest Somerset cider
- Credit: Archant
If anyone knows how to make cider, it’s Somerset. We pick 9 places you need to visit if you’re a true lover of the county’s favourite tipple
Barrington Court Cider, near Ilminster
There are nearly ten acres of orchards here, where cider making started up again in 2006 to tie in with Barrington’s centenary. The apples are milled on the National Trust property on a 150 year old mill before being pressed on a traditional 200 year old cider press.
Pommelier Rachel Brewer is in charge of the apple juice and cider project. She says: “I think making cider in such a traditional way really caught the imaginations of everyone involved, from picking the apples on beautiful cold, crisp autumn days to the long hours of milling and cranking the press well into the night!”
Don’t miss Barrington Court’s apple days on Saturday October 27 and Sunday October 28 – there will be plenty of activities to keep the whole family entertained.
Pass Vale Farm has been making cider for at least 150 years and Julian Temperley has been making it for 40. They have some of the largest orchards in the west, growing more than 40 varieties of vintage cider apples. An important part of the business is Somerset Cider Brandy, some of which they age for 20 years.
There’s plenty to explore; sample tasters among the oak vats, barrels and presses, walk along the orchard trail and take a look at the copper stills in the distillery. A trip wouldn’t be complete without a stroll up to the top of Burrow Hill for stunning views of the Somerset Levels.
Visitors are welcome to explore the farm from Monday to Saturday 9am to 5.30pm while small groups can book tours in advance (01460 240782).
Bere Cider Company, Aller, near Langport
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The skill of cider making has been passed down the generations since about 1880 and today, Chris Smolden’s young children are also involved with picking up apples grown in their own orchards. “Most of our customers are served at the farm gate and are a mix of locals and tourists,” he says.
“Our claim to fame, according to a high level caterer who stocked our product, is that the band U2 drank our cider the night before they played Glastonbury Festival in 2011, when they were at a private garden party near Bath.”
At the Bere Cider Company, ciders including Gold Rush and Farmhouse Light, alongside bottled slightly sparkling cider and apple juice, can be sampled and purchased in their cider shed fondly known as ‘The Shack’.
Sheppy’s Cider, Bradford-on-Tone
The Sheppy family have been making cider for at least 200 years. Louisa Sheppy says customers come from all over. “Quite a number tell us they always called in with their parents when they were children as part of their holiday ritual, and they continue to do the same now with their own.
“I think because cider is so closely connected with our agricultural past many people have a genuine fondness for the product, especially from the smaller family producer; seeing it as natural, earthy, honest and something they can connect with. Many of us have a certain yearning for a slower life and look to our agricultural past and all that went with it - at least all the nice things!”
There’s plenty to see and do at Sheppy’s whether you choose to pop in for a tasting session or enjoy the VIP tour and meal experience. Expect a warm and friendly welcome on arrival with staff on hand that are clearly passionate about their craft. You can book a tour here.
Wilkins Cider Farm, Mudgley
Expect proper, traditional Somerset cider, a range of delicious local cheeses and scrumptious local produce to take home with you.
Roger Wilkins and his family live and breathe their craft; and will happily give you a tour round the cider farm and offer tastings of their ‘proper Somerset cider’.
Rich’s Farmhouse Cider, Watchfield
Cider has been made at Mill Farm for over 60 years, says Jan Scott. “Russ Salway came to work for my father Gordon Rich in 1972 when he was 12; he delivers cider all over the West Country. “Martin Rich, my cousin, has been here since 1975 and learned from my father the way to make farmhouse cider to keep the family tradition going.
“Many visitors from all over the world come to visit us at Watchfield and our Legbender Cider Shop.” Whether you visit the traditional working farm or the cider shop in Cheddar, sample a selection of tasters before taking home your favourite.
Jan Scott added, “We have been surprised by visits from many famous people, including Prince Harry with his polo team on route down to Cornwall. They stopped off and took some Rich’s Cider with them.”
Worley’s Cider, near Dean
Nestled between Shepton Mallet and Frome, the scrumptious selection of Worley’s draught cider; Mendip Hills Medium, Red Hen Medium-Dry, Beatnik Billy Sweet and Mendip Hills Dry can be picked up directly from Worley’s itself.
Cider making is the kind of activity that glues a community together, says Neil Worley who began producing as a hobby over ten years ago. “We’ve received a huge amount of goodwill and support and are extremely grateful for that.
“We get regular tourist visits from other parts of the world. Typically, a group of around 15 travellers from Australia, USA, Canada and New Zealand will turn up to be shown around and taste some ciders. We usually put out some local cheeses and pickles and sit in the sunshine in the farmyard. The initial reactions can be quite amusing, but they soon settle into sitting around a farm drinking cider and usually leave with broad grins on their faces.”
Hecks Cider, Street
The Hecks Farm Shop in Street boasts an extensive array of fresh local produce and home grown fare, and of course, a well-stocked section of delicious cider which you can sample before choosing which you fancy taking home.
Since 1841, Hecks Cider has been producing a range of traditionally made farmhouse ciders, single variety ciders and refreshing perries. Each cider is crafted using age-old family traditions that have been passed down from generation to generation.
Cider aficionados are in good hands when it comes to a trip to Hecks!
And finally we couldn’t miss Thatchers Cider...
Martin Thatcher: “My great grandfather William was a farmer and he was well known in the area for making cider – as well as selling it locally, he would use it as part of his workers’ wages on the farm.
“We’ve been able to trace cider making in our family back even further. We’ve unearthed an old ad that appeared in the Bristol Mercury, dating to 1878, for ‘prime new cider at 30 shillings per hogshead.’ That advert was produced by Benjamin, my great, great grandfather, so I think it’s fairly safe to say that cider making really does run through our blood.
Perhaps the most famous Somerset cider of all, Thatchers Haze, Thatchers Gold, Katy and Green Goblin are just a few of the delicious ciders the institution is known up and down the country for. Visit the Thatchers website for upcoming open days, tasting sessions and how you can book a tour.
Which is your favourite Somerset cider?