Steel Press Cider
I was recently given a couple of bottles of Steel Press Cider to try.
Sean, the young lad behind this venture, has an entertaining story on his website about how he came to be a cider producer, although a little birdie tells me said girl isn’t so much a big cider fan (perhaps early relationship over-enthusiasm on both sides?). And like most artisans, he started from the point of loving cider and deciding ‘how hard could it be?’ (yep, same tales to tell as all other artisans), and thought that the cider market deserved the same variety and quality as wine and craft beer now has.
So, for right now, there’s two varieties – the Dry and the Bee (sweeter). Both use a blend of liquid honeys as their sweetener, added immediately on bottling. The ciders are sulphite and chemical free, and fermented by wild yeast over a longer period (read originally unpredictable but mostly now harnessed), giving a more south-west English traditional brew.
Sean and his dad built their own first steel press, which wasn’t so successful, but spawned the development of the next press and to work towards a full-time venture. They operate from a shipping container at Seaview, with a second container about to come on line shortly, and also very recently moved from all apples being hand-cut to machine cut. Definitely on their way then.
Sean gets his apples from a range of sources, including markets and wild apple orchards in the vineyard areas (apparently wild Granny Smith’s are a waaaaay different beast from the commercial ones), and presses with skins, stalks and a few of the seeds present. This adds flavour, pectin and tannin (ahhh grasshopper, that explained the after-taste we both noticed at the end of each mouthful but variously described as slightly sour or slightly bitter). More good info here about the role of tannins in cider.
Both went really well with meats and cheeses, and the Bee also went well with sweet fruit afters. The Bee has a distinctive honey taste and I could happily drink that on its own, whereas the Dry would definitely be a food pairing for me, although my partner seemed to manage quite well sans food with the Dry. You will see they had different colour profiles and were both a little cloudy, and definitely tasted more authentic than most commercial ciders which I find to be sickly and over effervescent. It’d be interesting to see how/if they change with longer in the bottle.
Sean is super focused on quality, so will only upscale slowly to ensure he maintains quality, but do visit Crumpet (where Sean still works work part-time) or Rogue and Vagabond now to enjoy a tipple. And keep an eye out through next year as more outlets get in on the act.
I applaud anyone who’s prepared to develop an artisan product, and wish Sean well. I would definitely drink it again.