WHAT began as an idea cooked up over a few pints in the pub has blossomed into a new business for Ashbourne’s newest cider- makers.
Kevin Woolley and Hannah Jane Barton, from Kniveton, have started selling craft cider produced from locally-sourced apples they spent a month gathering from gardens and orchards in the Ashbourne area.
Last spring the pair approached friends in the village to club together and buy a £200 second-hand cider press and set about gathering more than two tons of unwanted apples with the promise of cider in return.
The first 850 litres of cider, which is produced and packaged in a farm building lent to them by a friend, has now gone on sale in Kniveton’s Red Lion pub and is proving a hit.
Hannah said: “We were a bit nervous because we didn’t know what people would think of it but it’s been selling really well.
“It’s not like people are just having half a pint and not liking it, either, they’re going in and having a second or even third pint.
“It’s incredibly satisfying when we walk in and see people drinking our cider.”
Kniveton Cider Company, as the business has been named, is now one of a handful of licensed cider producers in Derbyshire and the cider has been boxed up ready to distribute to pubs in the area.
The couple plan to pay back their friends who invested in the press with cider from the first batch as they steam ahead building their new brand.
Although the first cider has been a hit, civil engineer Mr Woolley already has his eyes on expansion and hopes the small outfit will be able to produce around 3,000 litres next year, with the possibility of also launching its first pear-based “perry”.
He said: “Once we’d got the press, it just kind of snowballed and it’s been a lot of work but we’re pleased with the first batch.
“We’ve had to invest a lot of money into it to get it this far and it’s unlikely we’ll make a profit this year, but we’ve caught it at the right time, real cider is very popular at the moment so we’re really optimistic.”
Ashbourne publican and founder member of Ashbourne and district branch of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) Dave Leigh was one of the first to try the new cider. He said: “It’s excellent. It’s a dry cider, but there’s a real taste of Bramley apples in it and it’s really really refreshing as a summer drink. The interest in real cider is booming at the moment, and it’s appealing across the board.
“There’s been a rise in popularity of the fruit-based commercial ciders and that’s sparked an interest in the more traditional ciders.
“I’m really pleased for Kevin and Hannah, who are both members of the Ashbourne CAMRA branch, and I wish them all the best.”
The new tipple has been called “Never Mind The Hillocks” – a name inspired by the hill which winds its way in to Kniveton. The cider has won support from CAMRA with orders made for not only Ashbourne Beer Festival, which starts on Friday, October 10, and Nottingham Beer Festival, which starts on Wednesday, October 8.
Mr Woolley says he is keen to hear from pubs interested in putting the cider on sale. He can be contacted on 07941 278006.
To find out more visit www.knivetoncider.co.uk