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Cider not with Rosie

Posted on 3 December, 2011 at 19:33 Comments comments (91)
Well, at least now Dougie has been (deservedly) crowned King of the Jungle 2011 I might get around to some admin, including updating this blog a bit more regularly!   My money was on Mark but there wasn't much to choose between them.

Closer to home... in Tank no 1 the cider is a-bubblin away merrily now and the ciderist veterans tell us a slow fermentation is best, so we're not worrying too much that tank number 2 hasn't kicked off yet!  Looking to rack off (spot use of technical term here) in February or March unless the weather turns tropical again.  Still much airlock-watching going on though - do they say a watched tank never bubbles?

Busy week in the shop, beginning to see the first signs of Christmas present panic-buying setting in.  Already having to reorder Christmas Mead, cream liqueurs and leather doorstops (last year's Christmas must-have, and looking good again for 2011.) Put the first Christmas CDs on today - Sarah Mclachlan's Wintersong and Diana Krall's Christmas album - and plugged the fairy lights back in.  Watching the first few Christmas trees from Grow heading to the car park, it all felt pretty festive when Michele from Flowerart next door brought in some mulled wine to top it off!  Great stuff.  

1,000 litres down, 1,000 to go!

Posted on 15 November, 2011 at 4:46 Comments comments (0)
Well, we acquired a second-hand apple press - a twin-bed rack and cloth monster with a mill attached that chews up and splats out up to a whole bulk bin of apples in less than an hour - and, one huge shopping list later (rubber aprons & gloves, flexi tubs, filters, jugs, massive storage tanks, airlocks, bungs .. it goes on ...) we have had a crack at making our own cider, using apples from the national fruit collections.  Two days of slog later, ending each day looking like we'd been barfed on by a party of drunken teenagers, we finally managed to fill one tank to the top and it's now time to let nature take it's course.  Hopefully if the temperature doesn't plummet too deeply too quickly we'll be OK - they say a slow fermentation is best - but if not, cider vinegar anyone??

The sun shines on the righteous ..

Posted on 26 September, 2011 at 5:13 Comments comments (0)
Or as Bernie the new marketing & events manager said, it was the luck of the Irish, but however it might have come about we were all basking in the sunshine once again for the cider festival.  Although this year it wasn't really the cider festival as we have come to know it over the last 12 or so years, as Brogdale's events team have decided to go with more of a family feel and abandoned the old barn for a smart marquee in the showfield.  A bit of a sea change for the regulars who have been coming for years - no more Tiddly Pomme 'fruity folk' bar with its 60 ciders and perrys on offer, but instead professional mobile bar operators offered a handful of local ciders alongside the usual beers, wines and Magners (there was even a Magners seating area), although Biddenden Vineyards did have a stall too.   Add a couple of good bands into the mix, some free face painting for the kids,  a modest number of good local food producers and caterers, and tractor trailer rides around the orchards, and most people seemed content. The sunshine was the star of the show of course!

They tell us there will be no return to the previous format so we will have to look elsewhere to stage our own annual cider bash.  But we will be asking that their 'Great British Food, Cider and Beer Festival 2012' is not billed as the Cider Festival again as it definitely was not that this year, however successful it may have been.

So maybe not our idea of a cider festival, but then we are biased - and the lack of local ciders and perry inside the festival to taste and buy meant they came looking for it at the shop instead so we had a fantastic weekend for sales - sold out Saturday and had to beg our lovely ciderists to give Match of the Day a miss and get more barrels in to us on Sunday morning.  Double Vision's Strawberry was the bestseller of the weekend for us, and as we had nothing to do with the festival bar this year we had a lot less work to do, even if we did miss out on all the fun of what used to be our favourite weekend of the year!  But the big news is, we're going to start pressing our own cider on site again this autumn so watch this space for the big launch event in the Spring..

Where did the summer go?

Posted on 18 September, 2011 at 18:34 Comments comments (176)
Can't believe it is halfway through September.  It's been months since I posted anything here which is very lax of me.  We had time away due to a family bereavement in early July, then took time out to help out with our 'Grow' RHS show gardens at Hampton Court and Tatton Park, with the Kent Show sandwiched somewhere in between.  Spent August catching up with the paperwork and the housework, and suddenly the autumn is around the corner, and the first of the big Brogdale Festivals is this coming weekend.

So we headed off to Somerset for a few days last week to find some lovely new scrumpy ciders for the shop.  Rich's farmhouse cider,

What a beautiful county, and what fabulous cider!  You just have to pop in and try some.  Oh, and also Double Vision's new strawberry cider which is just flying out.  See you soon!

Oh dear, what a slacker...

Posted on 14 June, 2011 at 21:41 Comments comments (193)
Can't believe how long it is since I updated this site. What a disgrace!  All the people in the know tell you that you must post regularly... blame the VATman (why not?).  We've been busier than last year too :), helped along by the good weather and the copious number of bank holidays.  Lots of coach parties popping in, and the school visits are picking up now too - have to keep the little darlings off the cider, but we do have a selection of quality, pocket-money priced knick-knacks - animal pens & pencils, books, wooden magnifying glasses, clockwork butterflies & caterpillars to mention a few.

So we're on the countdown to the busy season now, with the first fruit celebration day on Sunday 26th, 'Berries and Beyond'.  Tasters of different summer fruits, tractor trailer rides and of course our own cider, juice and fruit wines to sample in the TP.  No charge for this event!  The first big festival of the season is the Cherry one on the 9th & 10th July.  Although you pay to go in to the big festivals you never pay to come in to the marketplace, so if you only have an hour or so to spare it's still worth popping along, we'll have things going on in the Marketplace and in Grow on festival days!  Then make a date in your diary for 'Sample-Cider Sunday' on August 7th - we'll have up to 20 Kentish ciders and perrys on offer outside the shop (weather-permitting!  If it's lousy we'll be inside the shop, and it will be very cosy ...) as well as some of the producers themselves on hand to offer tastings and impart some of their very extensive knowledge about making the stuff!  We'll have some appropriate musical entertainment (anyone have a hotline to the Wurzels?) and there'll be food and drink available.  No charge for entry to this one either!  Long hot Summer?? Bring it on ...

What a scorcher!

Posted on 20 April, 2011 at 17:54 Comments comments (315)
Phew!  This lovely weather is bringing the visitors in their hordes, but we're not complaining!  We have lots of 'new season' cider in stock (the ones pressed and fermented over the autumn & winter, and are now ready to drink) including old favourites East Stour, Lunatickle, Double Vision and Bushels, and some brand new ones from North Downs (some made using cider apples, so 'West Country' style, though made just down the road).  Plus Tasty Old Wife (as featured on James Martin's 'Great British Food Revival a few weeks ago, which was mostly filmed at Brogdale).  We can hardly keep up with the demand for Kentish beers and wines, but we're doing our best!

This week's bestseller from the gift department is the leather bunny doorstop - must be propping open doors around Kent to make the most of the warm breeze - but soon to be overtaken by the wasp catchers.  Gorgeous, bright coloured glass and cleverly designed to both look fab and work a treat, and a snip at 4.99 for the small ones and 6.99 for the large.   

Come along on Good Friday and have a cuppa or a glass of cider while the kids make some fun Easter decorations, including bonnets and masks, in Claire's craft workshop.  Or on Saturday to sample some lesser-known Kentish beers in celebration of St George's Day.  Easter egg hunt on Sunday, and train rides into the orchards.  There's still plenty of blossom on the trees to enjoy for that perfect Spring walk & picnic!

April already???

Posted on 4 April, 2011 at 21:25 Comments comments (0)
Oh dear, it is some time since I last updated this blog.  Have been caught up with annual accounts and computer problems, all of which are now sorted. Hurray!
Last weekend was our busiest since Christmas, brought on by a combination of gorgeous weather and Mother's Day celebrations.  We've been struggling to keep up with the demand for local ales and Kent wines - everyone seems to be in the middle of bottling and/or labelling as the new season's vintages start to appear. 
Look out for Tiddly Pomme cider No 1 appearing on a shelf near you soon!!  Even if we say it ourselves, it really is the most fantastic new drink on the market ... produced in conjunction with award-winning wine producers Chapel Down of Tenterden, it is a champagne-style cider made with Kentish apples with a hint of raspberry essence, peachy-pink in colour, floral, fruityand elegant and tastes absolutely gorgeous.  We plan to have a big party when it arrives and expect accolades to be pouring in from some very prestigious quarters.  Watch this space!!

Here's to the weekend!

Posted on 25 February, 2011 at 11:54 Comments comments (0)
Lovely day today, and the sunny weather does bring the cider drinkers out!  Here's hoping for another busy weekend...hope you all enjoy whatever you do, especially if you come to Brogdale to do it!

The best job in the world?

Posted on 19 February, 2011 at 16:37 Comments comments (194)
Standing here at the cash desk (which incidentally is a real work of art - no kidding!!  Created for us by Scott Fletcher of Handspring Design (see it on his website, from a sketch by the lovely Martyn, it is crafted from green oak and incorporates reclaimed wine barrels as well as a beautiful aluminium leaf work surface, not only tactile and aesthetically pleasing but very practical to boot ... but I digress..). 
Sorry, start again... Standing here at the cash desk looking across to a wall of fantastic wines, all chosen for us by Master of Wine Clive Barlow (we really are sooooo lucky to have Clive as a friend and mentor, he finds us the most fantastic wines at amazing prices that knock Tesco and Sainsbury and the like  into a cocked hat.  Slander? Bring it on ... oops - digressing again, where was I ..), listening to Adele's new album with a latte from the restaurant in one hand and the latest gift catalogues from our favourite companies in the other, this could be the best job in the world.  OK, customers may be a bit scarce at this time of year (they are all in the plant centre buying fruit trees, or at home planting them lol) but we have faith that they will be here in their droves again come Easter, so we are justified in getting the chequebook out and buying in lots of fab stuff.  It's a tough job but someone has to do it.
To sadder things ... tomorrow is Teresa's last day and we are very sorry that she is leaving us but excited for her that she has a full-time manager's job to go to.  Congratulations TC (Top Cat?!) - they're gain is our loss, but then it's all in a good cause.  At least on Saturday Claire - our super-saleswoman who somehow manages to attract customers like bees round Beult House honey pots - will be in so I can have a day off.  In fact a whole weekend off, as our other star performer Katie is in on Sunday. So two days of housework, dog walks, grocery shopping and updating business plans for me ahead...
(When plugging the wines I should mention the great new wine shelves built by Neil, from actual old apple bushel boxes.  Our ex-BT engineer/electrician and part-time delivery and planting supremo for Grow, now a cross between Laurence Llewellyn Bowen and Mary Portas - has done a great job and given us lots more space for all Clive's wines.  Yes Neil, all the hard work was worth it.)
See you next week.

Spring on it's way already???

Posted on 10 February, 2011 at 6:56 Comments comments (0)
Wow - what a difference a bit of sunshine makes! Top coats have come off for the first time since October (inc luding in the shop! although we haven't shed all the thermals, hats and scarves just yet ... ).  David at Grow (our own site garden centre/fruit tree nursery) is having to get a wiggle on with the propagation in case the spring arrives early and his 'window' for grafting new fruit trees suddenly closes.  Bulbs are starting to sprout in the courtyard planting boxes, and either fog is rolling in or the windows and glass doors of the shop look like they could do with a good clean! 
We've used the quieter days to move sections around, do some decorating and have a good old tidy-up and clean-out, what my mother-in-law used to call giving the place a good 'bottoming'.  (Sure that has connotations of something very different these days, but moving on..)).  Unearthed some disturbingly large cobwebs behind the bushel boxes :O
So busy ordering lots of new stock; cards, books, and chalkboards & memo blocks to help with that 'new year' reorganisation.  Waiting for the new season pressing of pear juice to arrive - sold out just after Christmas and have been disappointing people ever since (never good for business!).
Don't forget Valentine's Day next Monday -  lots of lovely Kentish fizz plus a gorgeous Italian prosecco, elderflower sparkling wines and lots of gift ideas, hope to see you soon!