Hot off the press: cider makers' talent on tap
In a new series on emerging talents, Alexander Gilmour, FT food and drink editor, visits Hawkes Cidery in London to talk with its up and coming drinks makers.
Produced and directed by Josh de la Mare. Filmed by Petros Gioumpasis. Edited by Oli McGuirk and Josh de la Mare.
Welcome to Making It, a new series which takes a look at rising stars in the firmament of food and drink. Today we are at Hawkes, the first cidery in London where we meet chief Hawker, Simon Wright, and trained winemaker turned cider maker, Roberto Basilico, who are both making it.
Here we are, Bermondsey
Cider season, best season of the year. From your website, it says, our mission is to change the face of cider forever. This is the beginning of a revolution.
Well, if you look at what's happened in craft beers, gin, spirits, you know, I mean, we felt that cider was a long way behind those two categories. Creating this and getting it in front of as many people as we can, and smack bang in the middle of London, was absolutely imperative to starting us on a revolution, of starting us on our journey.
We've got to get, on average, biweekly, about 30 bins worth of apples in. This is how we started, right? So four years ago we started our Urban Orchard brand using donated fruit from London. So this is actually fruit that came in yesterday from a car load from-- I think it was South London, Southeast London.
So what have we got here?
This is a Bramley. This is a Bramley apple, for sure.
That's a good cider apple?
It's not an amazing cider apple, it's very, very acidic. So--
Just chuck it away then.
Well, no, it will go into the mix with the rest of them, because the artistry of cider making is it's all about the blending.
So you started off just as a little apple trying to forge your way in the jungle orchard of cider making. You're like this now.
I wouldn't say we were there, but we're maybe-- yeah, maybe there.
Maybe you're just half there.
Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely.
What do you think is the secret to you having made it?
Having a passion to do things differently, and invest time in a category that's probably been perceived as a bit of the ugly sister of drinks-- of the drinks market.
OK, but it's more than just passion, isn't it? I mean, I've got passion, but I don't make cider like you make cider.
It's talent and skill.
It is. I mean, absolutely. I mean, when, you know, we teamed up with Roberto, our cider maker, you know, he's absolutely taken the business in terms of quality from there--
From the little one.
From there to there.
Here's Roberto, the artist. I'll leave you with him.
Oh. I've never had such fresh apple juice. Not all the apples come from your donors.
They also come form an orchard, is that right?
Yeah. They come from an orchard in Kent. These are perfect to make cider, but you cannot sell them in a supermarket.
This is like a big Magi-mix or something, like a food processor.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Crushing them up and then you press them.
And you get what we call the pomace.
So you used to be in the wine trade. So is cider relatively a new thing for you?
Yeah, it's quite a new thing for me. I just did cider at home.
You prefer cider to wine?
So once it's been in here, and we've had that bit--
The pomace goes inside and the juice come out from here.
So this is where the magic happens. This is where you're fermenting the apple juice.
Yeah. The fermentation happens here. We add yeast to help it happen.
Just because we just started we can look in here.
If it was full you couldn't do that.
No, I cannot do that.
So what is the essential art in making cider?
This takes years of understanding, knowledge of the orchards, of the apples that are coming from there. That's why it's so difficult to work in London, because you can't-- you get donated apples, and you don't know exactly where they come from.
Can we move on and try some fermented cider.
Ooh, that's very good.
One of the nice thing of this time of the fermentation is that you still have some-- a hint of alcohol, but you have this nice, sweet flavour, as well.
So if you come in the morning and you're feeling a little bit tired, do you just maybe pour yourself a little of this and start your day--
Yeah, yeah, that's a breakfast cider.
Can we try one that's further on?
Yes, absolutely. I have some finished cider, here.
So at this point, the cider is really dry.
Wow, yeah. That's not a breakfast cider, is it?
That's not a breakfast cider.
That's a late night after a game of poker.
Why don't you have other competitors?
I don't think we're going to be the first in London forever. But you know, this undertaking here, you know, it took us, you know, 12, 18 months to get it to this level. You know, we're thinking about good size of the business, but you know, we've done that because we believe that there's room in the cider market to go up against the big boys.
So this is where the magic ends.
This is it. This is the end of the journey for this cider. This is where the magic gets bottled or kegged.
So much cider. Do you ever think, enough cider, I want to have a can of beer?
No. Well, there's plenty of craft brewers brewers that can do that.
You've made it, but you've also like made it in a business way, as well. Do you think you've done it now?
No, I don't think so. We're just at the start. We're looking at barrel ageing in here, we're looking at experimenting with some different flavours.
Can we try?
And just knock it back?
A good sip in the beginning.
Oh, it's good. So it's not too sweet, is it?
What kind of experiments [INAUDIBLE]?
We can't-- we couldn't tell you that. We'd have to kill you.
You'd have to kill me?
Yeah, you can.
You'd die a happy death.