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Pilton Cider - Artisan Cider Makers from the Heart of Somerset

18th Aug 2022

Pliton Cider are artisan producers at the heart of Somerset's cider-land making whole juice sparkling cider by the old English method of keeving. Apples are collected from traditional cider orchards in and around the parish of Pilton and slowly transformed from this full flavoured fruit into unique naturally sweet ciders. Finally, different yeasts and other fruits are weaved in and barrel‑aging techniques are used to create a variety of small batch drinks.

We caught up with Martin, who runs Pilton Cider. He's also a leading UK light in 'modern craft cider' and heavily involved in Bristol Salon, a celebration of cider making. We chatted about what makes Pilton unique.

What’s the history of Pilton Cider?

Inspired by the many unused traditional orchards in the Pilton area, I started making cider as a hobby with friends in 2009 and then set up Pilton Cider in 2010. 

What’s the best and worst part of Cider making? 

Cider making is very much a seasonal process, starting with the harvest in the Autumn, fermentation through the Winter, blending and bottling in the Spring and sales in the Summer. The great variety keeps everything interesting.

Most of your ciders, infact all I think, are blends, but do you have a favourite cider apple variety? 

As with many other food products, blending is a key part in cider making. Each apple variety has particular characteristics and blending allows you to bring these together in many different ways to produce virtually unlimited products. 

What’s your favourite Pilton Cider product? And your favourite meal or food to enjoy with it?

I am currently enjoying  Fox Dog Cat with Somerset sourdough from Lievito Bakery, with traditional cheddar cheese from Somerset. 

What makes Pilton Cider unique? 

We specialise in the keeving method to make our ciders. This is an artisan method for making naturally sweetened cider. Only cider apples are used; no sugar, no water, nothing else. The process prevents yeast from fully fermenting apple juice into cider, so some natural fruity sweetness remains. Unlike the most common cider-making method where apple juice is fermented to dry and then sweetened artificially or with sugar. Talking technically, keeving prevents full fermentation by the removal of nutrients. This involves the formation of a pectin gel, which floats to the top of fresh pressed apple juice in translucent tanks. The gel traps nitrogen and is removed. Starved of its essential nutrients, the wild yeast fermentation stops early, leaving natural sugars from the apples themselves to sweeten the cider. 

Your branching out into much more experimental blends across other fruits now- what‘s inspired you to do this? 

This is a current trend in cider, inspired by natural wine and cider-making in the US. 

Any horror stories along the way? 

Not yet.

And here are just a few of the highlights of the range of Pilton Cider we currently stock.

Pilton - a distinctive nedium dry award winning sparkling cider.

Fox Dog Cat- as above, great with Somerset Cheddar. This cider is is a super-smooth blend of mature Jonagold, with just a touch of funk and a dash of smoke on the finish

Smokey Plum IV - this the fourth edition of Pilton Cider's Islay-barrel medium sweet plum wine with keeved cider. Spontaneously fermented natural plum wine, sweetened with Pilton's keeved cider and aged in smokey Islay whisky barrels.

Pomme Pomme - an apple and quince mixed cider.  The unique tart astringency of the quince is balanced here by the natural fruity sweetness of their classic keeved cider.

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