Sunday, 19 July 2015

Tin Shed - Sweet Still and Sweet Sparkling

I make it no secret I love Aussie ciders which come off the beaten track. I love the ciders which are painstakingly made by hand, and are a true reflection of place and personality. Ciders which have blood, sweat and tears poured into them. To me that’s real honest cider making. It doesn’t matter if it’s culinary or cider apples, I don’t care, as long as the intentions are right. Through my experiences, I find these are the ciders which have the characters I am looking for in a decent cider. Characters being authenticity, sense of place and respect.
One such producer is Tin Shed out of Tolmie in the Victorian Highlands. Just for shits and giggles, I looked up Tolmie on Wikipedia. It read: “Tolmie once had a general store/petrol station that is currently closed”. WWWOOAAHHHH!!! Ease up tiger! Must have been one happening place to have a general store! #crazytalk However, I digress. Owner of Tin Shed, Anne Barnett, bought a 15.5 acre block of land 20km out of Mansfield back in 2007. The property had a dilapidated apple orchard consisting of 120 trees situated on it. She was able to find a local horticulturalist who took on the job of meticulously reworking parts of the orchard from the overgrown blueberries, and general neglect. After lots of homework, an agreement was struck between Anne and her Horticulturalist to make cider and sell it under the Tin Shed label. Anne set out a five year plan for the orchard to be back functioning properly and bearing again, with plans to expand the orchard with cider apples. Whilst all being achieved by following organic principles, and with no use of herbicides. A 100 year old shearing shed was converted to a production area, with a cellar door used for tastings and also for small functions.

The resident Tin Shed apple orchard doesn’t currently bare enough fruit for production, so the ciders are made using fruit bought in by Victorian growers. Up to fourteen different dessert varieties are used, with Granny Smith being their base cider of choice. From mere humble and experimental beginnings of using kitchen juicers and using 10 litres fermenters in the laundry, Tin Shed is now made in 2000 litre batches. All in stainless steel tanks in their purposely built cidery. The portfolio consists of a dry still, sparkling dry, sweet still and sweet sparkling. The still ciders are fermented then matured for nine months before bottling, and the sparkling’s made in more commercial fashion.

This review will feature the Tin Shed Sweet Sparkling and the Tin Shed Sweet Still.  

Tin Shed – Sweet Still
Another still to taste! Yay! The still is bottled with no filtration. On pouring, a slightly cloudy liquid poured into the glass with no hint of fizz. The nose was chocked full of five fruits tin fruit syrup, ripe bruised apples with a distinctive mango aroma. It smelt sweet and very estery. What I did see was hints of germanium fault. This fault comes about by the metabolism of potassium sorbate by lactic acid bacteria (LAB). Hygiene is critical in cider making. If a cider is to be matured for an extended period of time, the cider needs to be protected. SO2 needs to be maintained to inhibit the growth of LAB or any other nasties. I did see some acetic acid too, most likely produced again by LAB or acetobactor. Cider cannot be exposed to air, as these bacterium will take over. According to cider guru Andrew lea, the term 'L'air est l'ennemi mortel du cidre' or 'The air is the deadly enemy of cider' is a famous French Cidermaker saying. So some critical technical flaws here by the makers. I found the nose super rustic and rough around the edges. But funnily enough, I fell in love with it. It actually showed personality. Not bland and boring. There was so much to think about. It reminded me of a complex traditional scrumpy cider where there were no limits or boundaries. Just fermented apple juice left to its own devises – no more no less.

The palate had a viscous syrup feel to it. What I loved was the freshness and the structural Grannie acid zing. Some great flavour with lashings of juicy peaches and sweet mangoes. Very tropical indeed, with tonnes of off dry weight. There was a lick of VA on the back palate, and the geranium fault also followed onto the palate. A slight yeasty aftertaste rounded out proceedings. There was a nice balance here. Actually quite enjoyable.
I love my ciders feral and funky. Hence Brittany is my most prized region. This was like Farmhouse Brittany meets Herefordshire scrumpy with a Aussie twist. Yes there were faults (I am not condoning that), but they were balanced and not out of control. I turned a blind eye to this as I found it thoroughly interesting. There is definitely room for improvement in the production side of this. Techniques and procedures do need to be cleaned up. Mr Average Joe might think it’s a disaster, but I see the beauty. Nice drop.  

14 / 20

Tin Shed - Sparkling Still
This cider was made more to mimic a commercial cider, with artificial carbonation and a medium sweetness. A light straw colour, with a low level of carbonation was observed in the glass……… Unfortunately, this was the best part of this cider. I’ll paint a word picture for you. One fully loaded semi-trailer truck going 100km/hr one direction. Another fully loaded semi-trailer truck going 100km/hr going the other direction. One veers onto the other side of the road and smashes into the other creating a force the size of 10 nuke bombs! BOOOOOOMMM! I am sorry, but the cider is very much like what I described – a catastrophic disaster.  

Dear me, what went wrong? In my notes I couldn’t even write decent descriptors for the nose. The best I could come up with was poorly aged white wine. To me this cider seemed mould affected. Like bacteria took over the ferment. All I can put it down to was potentially mouldy fruit and extremely unhygienic cider making. I have never seen a cider like this before.  More to the story here I think.
The palate didn’t get any better. Harsh and metallic carbonation made tasting the cider very unpleasant. Don’t laugh, but it tasted like West Coast Cooler. Oh the 90’s! The acid was extremely disjointed, and the fruit was stewed to high heaven. Zero flavour too. I think something has majorly gone wrong with this cider.

Sadly that’s all I can write here. I am going to give the benefit of the doubt and not rate this cider. Unfortunately sub 10 would be the go here. I even contemplated not posting this review. I just hope it was a batch issue and not just sub-par cider making skills, as this was majorly flawed. Like it was made by a novice home brewer. There are some issue in the ciders which need to be addressed. I hope the correct QA and experience will get on top of this for Tin Shed. I love their story and want to see them succeed. There still cider showed so much promise. Let’s hope in future batches we see what they are really capable of.    

Producer: Tin Shed Cider
Style: Australian Modern / Cloudy Still
Country: Australia (Tolmie, Victoria)
Alcohol: 4.9% / 6.0%

*Pictured is the complete Tin Shed Cider range. I will review the two dry ciders soon!

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