Long ago in the mists of time, all of 6 months ago, in fact, I decided to get Dan a Christmas present we’d both enjoy. I know, I’m such a treat, aren’t I?! In fairness though, this is a common tactic for Dan and I – we are very fortunate to be in a position where we can often spoil ourselves with the bits and bobs we want, so on those big occasions we tend to use it as an excuse to spend some quality time together and experience something new (God, we’re such Millennials!) In this instance, knowing his love of cider and our shared passion for a good ol’ drink in general, I decided to book us onto a tour of the Thatcher’s Cider Farm, paired with a meal in their on site pub and a night away in a nice hotel. What’s not to love, right? Well, I booked it all of a few weeks before we realised I was pregnant. Bummer. Still, I very selfishly wanted the night away, and a slap up pub meal is never something I’ll so we decided we’d go along anyway, and happily, despite not being able to do a huge amount of cider sampling, we had a fabulous time!
First up ahead of the tour, we stuffed ourselves silly at The Railway Inn, their onsite pub, which boasted both a lovely traditional pub (which is also doggy friendly!) and an airy modern restaurant area where we tucked into a rather delicious meal. Dan went for a steak, because, well, steak, and I went for a delicious goats cheese and beetroot risotto with a side of mac ‘n’ cheese and some chunky chips (hey, I’m pregnant, don’t judge…!), and it was the perfect way to kick off our cider themed day! We needed a little chill time to let all that food go down, so before embarking on our tour we retreated to a cosy corner of the pub to relax for a short while while I admired the furry friends people had brought along with them… It was a delightful little nook we found ourselves in, with a large open fireplace, comfy leather sofas and old metal tankards adorning the ceiling. I could happily have curled up there for hours with the dog and a book on a cold wintery day, but we had a cider tour beckoning, so off we went to our meeting point outside!
Working in the industry we do, and with a shared love of all things boozy, Dan and I have seen a few breweries and distilleries in the last couple of years, including Edinburgh Gin Distillery, Purity Brewery and Dorset Nectar Cider, all of which independents, so I was intrigued to see what Thatchers had to offer. It is still an independent company, and a family owned one at that, but having seen the brand name so much more widely spread it was bound to be a different kind of operation, and we weren’t wrong! During the tour we saw the journey from beginning to end, right from the orchards where some of their apples are grown through to the presses, the fermentation tanks and finally the canning floor and it was fascinating to see the mix of old and modern technology in use! One moment we were admiring the huge 150 year old oak vats where the cider is blended and matured, the next we were marveling at the futuristic machinery getting the cider shop ready, and I couldn’t quite believe just how few people they need working the floor to produce so much cider! Favourite fact of the day was that Thatcher’s have some technology so unique that they are the only company currently who can ensure all their cans are perfectly placed with the brand label facing outwards when packing – take a look next time you’re in the supermarket!
Of course, the part everyone looks forward to the most is the sampling, and Thatchers didn’t disappoint on that front (well, I was disappointed, but only because I could only have the tiniest sip of each before handing over to Dan!) taking us through all their best selling products while talking us through the different apples and processes we’d just seen in the factory. Not being a huge cider drinker, my favourite was their Rose Cider, made with sweeter dessert apples like Pink Lady and Fuji and boasting a lovely pink hue. Dan is more a traditionalist, though even he admitted it would make a lovely Summer tipple! The biggest treat of all though was that we had inadvertently booked ourselves on the day after they revealed two new products not yet on the market – a berry cider and a lemon cider! I absolutely loved the lemon cider which was not too sweet but super refreshing, and will be keeping a keen eye out for it in the hopefully near future!
Finally, we couldn’t leave without a trip to their shop, which is packed full of bargains – we scored a couple of crates of 24 x Thatchers Gold which only had 6 months left on the shelf life for just a tenner which should see Dan through the Summer – and other delicious cider themed treats. We couldn’t resist picking up some tangy apple cheese which was absolutely delicious and I had to sit on my hands to avoid filling our cupboards with various chutneys and jams! Maybe next time…..
So in summary, even if you aren’t a big cider drinker, or like me are temporarily banned from consuming the stuff, you’ll still find this a hugely entertaining afternoon – well, certainly if you are a food and drink geek like me anyhow. Get yourself over to Myrtle Farm to see for yourselves! Tickets can be bought here for £12 per person, or alternatively you can purchase vouchers to gift a tour without committing to dates!