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Spotlight on sparkling cider with Halfpenny Green

Some people won’t go near a still cider. In fact, I’ve a notion that most folk “outside the bubble” would call still cider “flat”, which is rather a reductive disservice when you taste something like a Little Pomona Art of Darkness. You’d hardly apply “flat” to a decent bottle of burgundy or claret.

But there’s no denying that people love fizz. Bubbles lift the spirits; they’re fun, they’re celebratory and they offer their own dimensions of mouthfeel and enjoyment. Most people think of cider as predominantly sparkling, because that’s what they’ve seen on tap at their local or in cans at the supermarket.

But not all bubbles are made equal. At the most basic level there’s force carbonation – simply pumping carbon dioxide into still cider for a quick-fix bit of fizz. That’s how most sparkling ciders are made, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with it. But, just as is done in wine, certain producers look to carbonate their ciders in more complex, perhaps more interesting ways. Ways that have a more direct impact on flavour and style.

We’ve met a good few of them before; champagne methods from Bollhayes, keeves from Pilton, pet nats from Caledonian Cider Co and different takes on bottle conditioning from Ross on Wye and Oliver’s. (I’m not getting drawn into picking a side just yet guys, by the way – you’ll have to scrap it out between you.)

But since it’s easy to get lost in this sea of subtly and not-so-subtly different sparkling I thought it was worth pinning down some clarity and definition by chatting to someone who makes them all.

Tony Lovering has been making Halfpenny Green Cider for a few years now. He’s based in Stourbridge, making about 7,000 litres a year and decided, from the start, to specifically go after different styles of sparkling cider presented in 750ml champagne-style bottles. We met when we found ourselves on the same ferry to Caen for CidrExpo in February and spent much of the trip discussing sparkling production methods in pretty nerdy terms. (Somewhere in my inbox I have a huge document on enzymes that Tony subsequently sent me.) Malt had only published one or two cider articles at the time, but I was struck by the depth in which Tony talked about process. Minimum intervention is such a popular term these days that many cidermakers I speak to shy away from discussing their physical input much post-pressing, but here was someone actively waxing lyrical. I suggested that we should chat for a Malt article and then, amid the chaos of the last few months, never got round to sorting it.

I was reminded of my suggestion when Tony featured in James Finch’s “Cider Club on Tour” series, still viewable on Instagram, and I reached out to see if Tony was keen to chat about how he makes different styles of sparkling cider. Our conversation is below, condensed and edited only for clarity.

Malt: So to start off can you give us a bit of a potted history of Halfpenny Green?
Tony: Yeah, I was working in the oil business and then when the oil price took a tumble we all got laid off, so I was looking for something to do. Started making cider as a hobby and then quite quickly there was a guy who was the director of Enville Ales, Malcolm Braham. He wanted somebody to come round – he had a barn where his father-in-law was making cider – and he wanted to redo it as sadly his father-in-law had passed away. So we got together and we renovated the barn and then mad the company Halfpenny Green Cider because it’s basically on the old airfield there – Halfpenny Green Airfield. Where his place is is the old officer’s mess that was there. So that was 2017 when we started the company. I’d travelled around; I wanted to look at all the different ways of making cider so I went around the UK and then got interested in the way we could introduce techniques from the wine industry into cider. So went to France, had a look around there at the ways of making cider. And then brought all of those methods together to try to make sparkling cider. The thinking behind sparkling cider was that we wanted to stay below 7,000 litres and it was the only way to make a living out of it.

Malt: You’ve come from an engineering background – how has that informed your approach to your ciders?
Tony: Well the way that I look at it is process-focussed mainly, what I see. And some cidermakers they see the process as rather static and they then mess around with the ingredients, you know, what type of yeast, what type of apples, that sort of thing. So I know from my background that adjusting the process can give you more scope to do different things. It’s like say you wanted to make an omelette, and you can use the eggs to make omelette – you can have a cheese omelette, ham omelette, it’s still an omelette – but you could use the eggs to make soufflé, cakes if you change the process. So that’s the way I explore it is by changing the process to make different products.

Malt: Do you think process is underdiscussed – even slightly looked down at – by people espousing concepts like minimum intervention? Does that overlook the massive difference that process can make?
Tony: Yeah, I mean, the way I think about minimum intervention in certain things like adding chemicals or whether you want to use cultured yeasts – I think the actual changing the process doesn’t change the fact that you can just use apples, you know? In fact by adjusting the process you can actually then use less ingredients. Like if you do keeving for a cider you can have a sweet cider but there’s no need for pasteurisation. So that’s the sort of thing that I thought by adjusting the process you can actually have less intervention.

Malt: Before we get into the sparkling element, tell me about your primary fermentation – wild yeast? Pitched yeast? And why?
Tony: Well when I first started making cider I knew that when you start making cider that it’s like cooking lessons that last a year! And you don’t then learn anything ‘til the next year! So being my age I thought the best way to go about it is to have multiple things on the go at the same time. So I tried hundreds of different types of yeasts, right from the very start. And different ways of doing it. And then I went over to wild yeasts, found that down the line that the end product that you want to make, such as whether it’s bottle conditioned, sparkling in-the-bottle champagne method, Charmat method, these all lend themselves to a certain type of primary fermentation. It’s almost you have to work backwards. That’s what I’ve decided in the last year or so it’s the fact that if you want to do the primary fermentation, you don’t do the primary fermentation and then say “ok, what can I do with this?” What you’re doing is you’re looking at the end product, working your way back and saying “ok I want that so I’d better do this.” So I do a mixture of both. I do a mixture of cultured fermentations and also wild fermentations as well depending on the end product that you would need.

Malt: Do you find different apples do better or worse with different styles of sparkling cider? Can you give some examples?
Tony: Yeah. If you going with late season apples like particularly Dabinett from old orchards you haven’t got much nitrogen in the soil, so it’s difficult for you to produce – and also the high tannins – it’s difficult lending that towards champenoise method because the secondary fermentation you’ve got to add lots of nutrients. But if you were looking at the early season – mid season apples which are lighter in the tannins and also have a bit more nutrients in them – nitrogen – whether you want to pick them from a commercial orchard or whatever. Then you’ve got to look at the way it then lends itself into the method of secondary fermentation.

Malt: You’re not afraid to talk about filtration – a word that scares a lot of cider folk. In fact you’ve built your own filtration device. Can you tell us a bit about it and about its importance?
Tony: Yeah well when I looked at the wine processes – making sparkling wines such as Prosecco, even Cava – what they do is they ferment in tanks and then move it out of the tanks through double filtration and then into the bottle so you can add some sugar without it sort of kicking off in the bottle again. There’s that method or there was the pasteurisation method. I didn’t fancy pasteurisation so I looked at the filtration side of it and if you sort of manage your primary fermentation so at the end of it there’s only just enough nitrogen left for a smaller secondary fermentation you then, when you put it in the bottle through the filter, you’re then not kicking off in the bottle, you know? The filtration system I use is just like ten inch cartridge filters. There’s a 0.45 micron glass fibre primary filter and then there’s a membrane filter afterwards. I mean this is well known in the wine industry; this is exactly what they do to filter the wines to put into bottles.

Malt: And you don’t find that character is lost through filtration?
Tony: No there is a difference in taste I must admit. But from the way that I judge it, it tends to sort of round off the harshness – to me it seems to improve the flavour! It takes out – if there’s quite a lot of, you know, yeast in suspension, that always gives it some sort of flavour. I try not to have such a harsh filtration as it removes a lot of bacteria – the bacteria gives it quite a lot of sort of three-dimensional taste, you know? And for different processes I use different filtrations.

Malt: Can you give some examples of that?
Tony: Well if I do a bottled keeved cider I’ll do the keeve and then I’ll ferment it in a tank and it takes around six months to get from a starting gravity of about 1.058 down to 1.020-1.022. And you want to sort of get it so that it’s very, very slow towards the 1.020. So you’ve got about three or four rackings from 1.050 down to 1.022. And then usually it sits around 1.025-1.022 for a couple of months before you put it in the bottle. Now the accepted way of doing it in France is you put that straight in a bottle and you put a cork on. But I don’t do that – what I do, I put it into a bottle and I put a crown cap on. And then allow the fermentation in the bottle to then carry on. And then what I do is I remove it out of the bottle into a container under pressure of four bar and then from the container back into the bottle through just a single-stage filtration. Because you don’t need the double filtration because you’re not going to add any sugar so therefore you don’t need so much. All you’re doing is trying to brighten it up a bit, that’s all.

Malt: Let’s dig into your range. Tell me about Shilling in terms of fruit and process?
Tony: Ok, so the Shilling’s a pet nat. So I try to use late season bittersweet-bittersharp mix, low nitrogen, and then I try to get it so it slows down, so I rack it a couple of times so it’s hovering around 1.010 for quite a while, not really moving. So you’re talking about February-March time, just as it starts to get warm. And then what I’ll do, I’ll move it out of the tanks. I normally have a couple of the tanks with different varieties of pet nat. So I’ll have Harry Masters’ Jersey and Tremlett’s Bitter and a Dabinett in three separate tanks. So I’ll move it out of there into the bottle and put a crown cap on. And then leave it until it gets fizzy. I’ll open a couple of bottles in around about – so from March time, April, May, June – so around about June pop a bottle, see that it’s nice and fizzy. I can then select out of those three a number of different ones to get a good blend. Cool them down, move them out of the bottle using my home-made counter-pressure filling head, move them out of the bottle into a container at four bar and then back out of the container through a filter, into the bottle, add a slight amount of sugar just to take it off-dry. And that’s the pet nat. Well I say it’s “pet nat”; truly it should be finished in the bottle with quite a large amount of sediment. But that’s a really hard sell! I find, anyway – around here!

Malt: Crown?
Tony: The Crown is bottle conditioned. So basically the same thing but what you do, you take it down to dry – and I have different tanks of different single varieties, and the Crown is normally natural fermentation. And what I’m doing now, I’m going to heritage orchards which is a number of different varieties, and I also use a couple of single varieties as well. So then leave them to go to dry – and once they’re dry you can move them into bottle and add a certain amount of sugar, usually about 15g/l. And then leave them there for at least eight weeks, but I’ve got some that have been in there two and a half years, so it doesn’t really matter. And then with the Crown, every time I do a batch of Crown, which is normally around about 80 bottles, I select a range of the varieties of bottle conditioners I’ve got and do the same thing. Move it out of the bottle, into a container, out of the container, back through a filter, back into the bottle so it’s nice and bright. So that’s the Crown. And every time I make a Crown, the problem is that it’s different every time!

Malt: And do you put all the different batch numbers on the bottles?
Tony: I’ve got batch numbers on them yeah, which I’ve started to do since the Environmenal Health Officer came around and the Trading Standards guy! So yeah, I’ve been keeping records and the batch numbers, so you know what they are.

Malt: Sovereign?
Tony: Sovereign is the charmat method. So basically that is a cultured fermentation – primary fermentation. I’ve found that I’m trying to get that as fruity as possible. I’ve looked at ester production and I’ve found that if you keep something as mid-season bittersweet apples and use a cultured yeast it produces a very fruity cider. And that carries over for the secondary fermentation. What you do is once it’s down to dry you move it to a container, you add 15 to 18 grams of sugar per litre plus a cultured yeast, usually EC1118, but just recently I’ve tried some white wine yeast – KV1116 I think. Another type of yeast. These give it a very florally flavour. So once it’s in the container I keep it at 22 degrees for a month and then that should get to around five and a half bar in the container, once all the sugar’s gone. And then I cool it down to two degrees for seven days, which drops all the yeast off to the bottom. And then the takeoff point is just above the bottom of the tank; I’ll move it out of there, through the two stage filter into the bottle and add some sugar to take it off-dry. So that’s the charmat method, which is basically exactly what I would make a sparkling wine such as Prosecco with.

Malt: And then you’ve got the Florin?
Tony: Yeah the Florin’s the keeved one. So this is just basically – when I went to France I was talking to a guy there in Fousenant, down in Brittany, and he was looking into the process – he wanted to explore how to transfer the cider out of the bottle and clean it up and remove the sediment. And it was in the conversation with this guy that I then looked into that. And German wines use what they call the transfer method, where it’s in-bottle fermentation and then you move it from one bottle to another. So for the keeving process, normal keeving process. Remove the nitrogen and then using a pme enzyme after the maceration, which gives you the chapeau brun on the top. I move it out of the tank, now when I move it out of the tank I actually pass it through a filter – a coarse filter – to the tank. Once I’ve moved it out of the keeving tank into the fermentation tank I’ve done one without the filter and one with the filter and I’ve found that the filter slows down the fermentation, so I’m going to keep doing that. It was something I saw in France that somebody was doing. And now I do a couple of racks and it starts off 1.058 and you’ve got to keep an eye on it. Over the winter months it doesn’t move too much but once the weather warms up you’ve got to keep an eye on it until it gets down to 1.022 gravity and then it’s into the bottles for the bottle fermentation, but I put a crown cap on it, like I say. And then, once it’s ready … I mean I’ve just done some now that were bottled in 2018 … so I take a selection of bottles once they’re fully conditioned in the bottle. Cool them down, move them into a container and then back through the filter and into the bottle again. So it’s like a clean tinge because you’ve got not sediment in the bottle. Saying that I’ve got one now which is basically a typical Normandy style which is straight out the keeve and into a bottle with a cork on. But it’s cloudy, and it’s got a lot of sediment in, I call it the rustic version! That’s Le Franc!

Malt: And Gold Guinea?
Tony: Gold Guinea’s just a pure methode traditionelle. Now I’ve messed around a couple of times with a couple of ways. So I did actually do a filtered version of the Gold Guinea, so what I do is basically I like to do a cultured ferment for that as well. And then add nutrients, into the bottle with some yeast and sugar. 19g/l so it’s the highest sparkle. I like to do that when the weather’s heating up so like end of April, beginning of May, so that the fermentation kicks off quite well. And then lay it down in May all the way through to February. So the next February I pick a nice frosty day, put the bottles into a riddling rack and then turn them every day until all the sediment is at the bottom of the bottles, freeze the necks and then disgorge and then you can either, like I say, put a cork in – that’s your typical methode traditionelle – or sometimes I put it into a container, back out the container through the filter and into the bottle again. So I’ve done that the two different ways and I’ve found that if I wanted to have some available quite quickly I’ll filter it, but if I don’t need it for six months then I’ll just do the traditional and then leave that lying down and it clears on its own.

Malt: Given you’re effectively disgorging all of them, is the principal difference between Crown and Gold Guinea the amount of priming sugar you’re using for the second fermentation?
Tony: The Crown is a natural fermentation and then all I do is put the sugar in it – I don’t add any yeast. So it’s a natural ferment and then the secondary fermentation is a natural ferment as well. The Gold Guinea is a cultured ferment and – oh yeah, I forgot one thing, before I put the sugar and yeast in, I filter it as well. So I take the cider, if it’s not really bright I just filter it anyway. I’ve found that if I filter it then, for the secondary fermentation when you put your EC1118 in and your sugar, that fermentation is very, very clear and bright. So the filtration before you add the sugar and yeast makes it a better product at the end.

Malt: Different pressures with each process?
Tony: It all depends on the temperature but I’ve found that at about twenty degrees centigrade your yeast will give up around about five and a half bar. So if you put too much sugar in it what you’ll end up with is a fizz, but you’ll have a bit more sugar in. So the lowest pressure one is the Florin, usually around about 3 bar at twenty degrees C. And then your pet nat is just a bit more than that; probably around about the same, so there’s not much fizz in that really because it’s a natural ferment and natural fermentations don’t produce so much fizz. The Crown is also around about three-three and a half bar, and it’s not until you’re getting to the Charmat method where you’re using EC1118, which is a very strong yeast; very aggressive, that you’re getting to the big pressures. You know, five and a half bar for charmat, five and a half to six bar with your methode traditionelle.

Malt: Do you have a favourite?
Tony: I like the Gold Guinea, I must admit, and I like the Florin, but I have to try them every now and then just to make sure, you know? Before breakfast, after breakfast. Before lunch, after lunch! That sort of thing.

Malt: And now you’ve a few perries coming out – tell us about the fruit and processes you’ve experimented with so far?
Tony: Yeah, I didn’t know where to get perry pears from. There’s a guy, Steven Ware, from Throne Farm, and he had some perry pears. He only had single variety this year, so I managed to find somebody who’s pressing – a guy down near Malvern – who presses lots of apples and perry pears as well. So I managed to get some perry pear juice from him. He collects up all the perry pears that people bring in, then presses them and sells the juice. So that’s the only thing I really got hold of, was a mixture. I didn’t go and find a typical variety or anything. Because to get them commercially, unless you’ve got your own trees, is quite difficult to find so I’ve found out. And from that juice, along with the Antricotin pear from Steven Ware, which we’ve blended together, we’ve made some bottle conditioned perry. And one that was like a pet nat. So two different ones. And that was made like the Crown method.

Malt: And how have you found the results have compared if you’re using the same juice for each method?
Tony: The bottle conditioned one was more fizzy and I don’t know what happened with the second one but it’s taking forever to actually ferment – the pet nat. And there’s quite a lot of residual sugar left in there. So very slight fizz, more cloudy and sweeter than the bottle conditioned one I did. I don’t know why that is. But they’ve both come out and they’re really nice to drink, and something that I want to experiment with in the future. I’ve been looking at different perry pears; around here in Birmingham there’s a place called Perry Park – they made perry there – and around Tettenhall, in the Black Country, there’s an old perry pear tree called Tettenhall Dick! And it’s quite rare because they’re all getting old now, but there’s an old couple who came to my place and said that they’d got one in their garden, and would I like the fruit? So hopefully if there’s a nice crop this year what we’ll be trying to do is make a Tettenhall Dick perry, which is typical for the Black Country. So to sell locally it’ll be something that’ll be quite sought-after, I think.

Malt: What’s on the imminent horizon for Halfpenny Green?
Tony: Well perry-wise as well, when we went down to Normandy I was very impressed with the keeved perries. So I’m going to have a go at that as well if we can get the right fruit. I think, by talking to the people down there, that they always use the old tress, you know? The old 150-year-old trees. So I’m not really sure how it would come out if you started keeving the bush type that’s grown on quince rootstock, I’m not sure. But we can try both! If I can get perry pears from old trees we’ll try that and see how it comes out.

Thanks to Tony for going into so much detail. Right – no further introduction needed for these ciders, as you’ve effectively had a 4,000-word-long one. All the ciders besides Le Franc are available through Scrattings for £9.50 a bottle (Gold Guinea is £10.50). The perries have only just been launched – I bought mine directly from Tony.

Halfpenny Green Shilling (Pet Nat) – review

Colour: Bright copper.

On the nose: Lovely, clean, ripe cider apple nose. Apple juice, oranges, sawn wood and black tea. Gingerbread spicing. Fresh, poised and clean-lined, but the fruit has a nice depth, too. There’s a tang of iron and ever-so-slight TCP which skulks at the back and actually adds to the complexity. Presence of Harry Masters’ Jersey?

In the mouth: Super-juicy, with a nice, controlled rasp of broad, coarse tannins – pass the protein! The fruit is defined, clean and a lovely mingling of deeper, riper tones with higher, fresher notes. It’s very apple-forward, structured by a little wood and pepper from the tannin. More iron towards the finish. There’s a bit of sweetness which adds to the impression of fruit ripeness without pulling it too far away from dry. More than balanced out by the tannins. Impressively balanced and structured and full.

Halfpenny Green Crown (Bottle Conditioned) – review

Colour: Very similar to Shilling.

On the nose: Very phenolic. Is there Harry Masters’ Jersey in here? It has that medicinal, iodine, almost Laphroaig-esque TCP I came across in the Ross single variety back in January. That sits atop lemon and apple skins and an earthy minerality. Grapefruit, juniper, wood and dill. The tang of new pennies. There’s certainly depth but it’s not expressing as ripely and juicily as the shilling.

In the mouth: Really bright and crisp. Again there’s that brush of firm but not excessive tannin, running to a slight tea leaf bitterness on the finish. Surprising degree of mousse, but it’s creamy enough to heighten, rather than distract from, the fruit. Apple pie, petrichor and cinnamon. A little stone fruit. As the fruit fades that slight germoline character returns amidst the tannins together with a lightly smoky herbaceousness and that gently bittering (in a good way) copper tang. A tiny brush of sweetness. This is really full of energy and clarity and structure. Loads going on, really expressive fruit. Probably the most versatile food match here too. Love it.

Halfpenny Green Sovereign (Charmat method – Prosecco Style) – review

Colour: Burnished gold.

On the nose: Very high-toned and estery. Green apple and pear. Lemon, but almost in a slightly chemical way – a touch of detergent. It’s very squeaky clean and polished … perhaps a little too much so?

In the mouth: Lovely, clean, ripe, juicy fruit beneath a very exuberant mousse. Green apples, apple skins, lemon juice, kumquat. That detergenty character is less prominent so the fruit really shines compared to the nose. Just a slight metallic tang where the fizz and the brush of tannin collide – more pronounced than that of the Crown or Shilling. Whistle clean, lots to like, but possibly my least favourite of the lineup.

Halfpenny Green Florin (Keeved) – review

Colour: Would it be cheeky to say Lucozade Original?

On the nose: Very decadent. Fresh red apple but slathered in toffee sauce and studded with cloves. Cinder toffee and honeycomb. A little smoky, charry, woody lignin. Brandysnaps and gingernuts. I am very impressed with the purity and clarity of these aromas, for a Keeved cider, I must say.

In the mouth: Pure spiced apple juice, that is. There’s sweetness, of course, but some really velvety, firm tannin prevents it from cloying. Twiggy wood, ginger, star anise and clove. Some nettle greenness at the back. Just a lovely balance of depth and freshness, all expressed in that high-definition clarity. There are a lot of keeves out there now – this is one of the best; certainly the most refined. Possibly the ultimate barbecue cider.

Halfpenny Green Le Franc (Keeved, unfiltered) – review

Colour: Murky brass.

On the nose: Oh, I’m not sure about that. There’s a vegetal smell here – yesterday’s roast potatoes (which I’d scoff in a heartbeat, obviously, but don’t really want to smell in my drink). Apples and soil and old leaves. It’s on the simple side compared to some of its stablemates – and nowhere near the same finesse.

In the mouth: That vegetal note persists and the balance of sugar and tannin doesn’t approach the Florin’s. Muddled and slightly cloying. Lemon and part-baked apple. Apple juice, but that’s been open a day or two. Not as ripe, deep, defined or generous as its sibling’s. A little smokiness. It’s ok in isolation, but in the context of the whole Halfpenny Green range it’s on the ordinary side.

Halfpenny Green Gold Guinea (Methode Traditionelle – Champagne Style) – review

Colour: Bright gold.

On the nose: One of the more convincing champagne impressions I’ve nosed on a cider. The lees have given up a yeastiness – a seashell minerality, almost a touch of cheese rind. Red apple, yellow citrus peel and oils and toasted almonds. On the delicate side, though more rounded than the Sovereign.

In the mouth: ‘Champagney’ was the geophysicist’s response, not realising that this was the traditional method. And I hear her. It’s a little softer and rounder than its grapey cousin and that seashell and light yeasty-cheesy phenolic drags me back to the west of England, but the poise and the bright green fruit are great. Wet stone and light sourdough. Another traditional method that sits on the fruit-forward side, but that’s inevitable really, given the age. Mousse is wonderfully creamy, tannins managed perfectly – totally integrated – and nice, fresh acidity that doesn’t dominate. Good job.

Halfpenny Green Farthing (Bottle Conditioned Perry) – review

Colour: Sauvignon Blanc.

On the nose: Clean, clear and pristine in its freshness. Grass, dandelion stalk, nettle and dock leaf. Green pear and elderflower, lime leaf and honeydew melon. There’s a lovely flinty minerality. One of those perries that says “come and get me” to fans of whites from the Loire. A little bit of honeysuckle.

In the mouth: Just so beautifully clean and bright and pure. We’re in knockout aperitif territory and no mistake. There’s actually much that connects this to Pang Valley’s Royal County cider – that nettle and dandelion green thread, that touch of sweetness – less so here actually – plumping up green apple and pear. Fruitier than the nose – more of that honeydew, running to cantaloupe, with big elderflower and chamomile. Just a touch of tannin and a nibble of acidity. That’s delicious.

Halfpenny Green XYZ (Pet Nat perry) – review

Colour: Cloudy lemonade.

On the nose: Sharper than the Farthing; more citrusy. There’s lemon and lime and tangy pear but there’s a yeasty sour beer note too. A little ethyl acetate peardrop maybe and a slight touch of animal farmyard. Doesn’t quite have the squeaky cleanness of some of the others.

In the mouth: Big arrival – Sicilian lemonade and ripe pear. Nice balance of medium sweetness and acidity. There’s a chalky, seashell minerality last seen in the Gold Guinea. Bit of that cheese rind too, though the farmyard phenolics are dialled back. Better palate than nose, I’d say. Some nice things happening, lots of character, but a rough edge or two on the side.

Conclusions

Four excellent, one very good and three I’m varying degrees of not sure about. A solid result I’d say, given the ambition of these bottlings. It certainly confirms Tony in my mind as one of the most technically advanced cidermakers in the business at the moment. Much of what he talks about, and much of the evidence in Halfpenny Green bottles, points towards that expertise which Andrew Lea suggested went missing at the closure of the Long Ashton Research Station.

These ciders (and now perries) are refined and clean and fruit-expressive to the point that any off notes; anything we’d put into our ‘funk’ bracket, come as a tremendous curveball. All that’s missing really to elevate them to the next level is perhaps a bit more time. These are on the young side for both the methods they are using and, in the case of the later-season bittersweets, the qualities of the fruits they are showcasing. Not that there’s anything wrong with being bright and pure and vivacious and fruit-led, but time’s what takes the best drinks from “excellent” to “magical”. I’d love to see what a few years would do, for instance, to the Shilling, the Crown and the Gold Guinea.

I would certainly be a repeat customer for at least five of these – indeed in every case but the Farthing I already am one. At £9.50 each I strongly recommend that you add Halfpenny Green to your fine cider shopping list.

Adam’s order of preference:
1. Shilling
2. Florin
3. Farthing
4. Crown
5. Gold Guinea
6. Pet Nat Perry
7. Le Franc
8. Sovereign

Thanks to Tony for talking to me in so much depth and for selling me the perries in advance of their official launch.

CategoriesCider
Adam Wells
Adam Wells

In addition to my weekly-ish articles on Malt I write about whisky for Distilled and cider for Graftwood and Full Juice Magazines. Somewhere amidst all that I've also done the WSET Diploma in Wine and Spirits. I share my home with several hundred bottles and one geophysicist. For miscellaneous drinks banality, find me on twitter at Twitter.com/DrinkScribbler

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