Monday, 15 April 2013

Meet the Maker

Steve Dorman - The Hills Cider Company (SA)

1. What got you into making cider?

As a winemaker by trade, I was attracted to the similarities in production between wine and traditional cider. I was lucky to do some cider vintages in Europe, which excited me to explore the category further.

Having a before dinner drink with (now business partner) Toby Kline in 2010, we realised that there was nothing on the market between wine and beer – what we were looking for was a fresh, light drink that wasn’t too filling before a meal (like beer) or too alcoholic for the start of the night (like wine.) At this time, the only ciders on the market were mass produced, sweet, commercial styles. We decided to look into crafting a traditional, artisan cider from 100% fresh local fruit – and The Hills Cider Company was born!

2. How long have you been making cider for?

For around 10 years now. After doing some cider and beverage consultancy work and a few vintages over in Europe, I got really serious in 2009 when we started pulling concepts together for The Hills Cider Company, which was launched in January 2010.

3. Can you give a brief run down of your ciders?
Our core range is The Hills Apple Cider and The Hills Pear Cider. All our ciders are crafted from 100% fresh fruit from the Adelaide Hills, with minimal intervention – no added sugars, concentrates, flavours or water. Our Apple Cider is a well balanced, clean, fresh, dry style cider, with a crunchy apple palate and bright fruit flavours. Our Pear Cider has great fruit complexity, clean spicy notes and a luscious mouth feel, again finishing clean, fresh and dry. We have also recently introduced the first of our Hybrid Series – a harmonious blend of fresh Adelaide Hills grown apples and spicy and creamy Queensland farmed ginger.

4. What is it you like most about making cider?

What I love about making traditional cider is that I get to do a vintage every month, and I have a large range of fruit to experiment with. I have been playing around with different blends and oaks, and looking to connect with the history of artisan cider and the different styles throughout the world. I have a few ‘limited editions’ in the pipeworks that I’m really excited about releasing.

5. What has been your most memorable ‘cider’ moment

When Toby and I began The Hills Cider Company, we were doing everything by hand from our garage. It used to take us 8 hours to clean and fill 10 kegs by hand! The day of our first ever delivery, we loaded up our first load of finished kegs into our Holden ute. Little did we know these utes had faulty tailgates (which were eventually recalled) - the first roundabout we came across, there goes the tailgate, and there goes our first load of kegs, all across an intersection in North Adelaide! We pulled over and started retrieving our scattered kegs, and some bloke starts rolling one away for himself. He wasn’t having it when we tried to explain the situation, told us to stop being so selfish and taking them all for ourselves! He took quite a bit of convincing before he handed it over and we were able to finish our delivery.

6. What is the most common question you are always asked about cider?

Is your cider sweet?!!

Because the cider category in Australia is still quite young, there is a lack of education amongst consumers about what ‘traditional cider’ is. Many of the mainstream, mass produced, popular ciders on the market are made using fruit juice concentrate (often from China) or flavours, and are often quite sweet. Traditional cider makers, like ourselves, craft our product from 100% Australian farmed apples and pear, generally producing ciders that are clean, crisp and medium to dry.

7. What are you views on the current state of cider in Australia?

The cider category in Australia is growing exponentially at the moment, but is still a relatively small category. What we lack at the moment is consumer education and label integrity. We, along with Cider Australia and others passionate about traditional cider, are keen to see an introduction of legislations that help differentiate between ciders made from concentrate or flavours, and ciders made from 100% fresh fruit. And we want to see this information included on packaging and labels, so the consumers can make informed choices on what they are drinking.

8. What makes cider so popular to consumers?

Cider is such a refreshing alternative to beer or wine. What’s interesting is we are now seeing such a broad range of people enjoying cider; thanks to traditional cider makers producing real, fruit driven cider it’s no longer a sweet drink enjoyed by the fairer sex! Because it is lower in alcohol than wine and not heavy like beer, it makes a great ‘sessionable’ drink.

9. What are your reasons for the sudden surge in cider popularity?

The resurgence of cider popularity in the UK took off about 7 years ago, and is still showing no signs of slowing down. This activity definitely caught the attention of producers here in Australia, who realised this crisp refreshing beverage suits our outdoor lifestyle perfectly and makes a great alternative to beer or wine.

10. Where do you see the Australian cider industry in five years time?

I believe with more consumer education about cider (traditional vs produced from flavours/concentrate) and regulations on label integrity, the category will continue to grow, with greater support for producers making real cider, who support Australian apple growers and regional farming communities by using 100% fresh fruit.

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