The Inn Ciders
STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY RICHARD CORNISH
Out the back of Musk, where the farms give way to the Wombat State Forest there is a little orchard of old fashioned apple trees. They bare equally old-fashioned names like Fox Whelp, Yarling Mill and Brown Snout. These aren’t eating apples. They are cider apples. Varieties from England’s West Country where cider is still a way of life. “I used to go to pubs like the Black Pot or the Coronation Tap back home,” says Clare Mackie. She lived in Bristol where there was a cider called Exhibition that was so strong the publican would only sell it in half pints. She and her husband Jonathan met in the Australian outback and bought Daylesford Cider with its 10 year old orchard of 2000 English cider variety apple trees three and half years ago.
Jonathan offers a bite of a Yarling Mill apple. It is fragrant but when bitten into dries out the mouth. “That is the tannin,” explains Jonathan. “That is really important to the structure of the cider. It’s like the tannin in wine.”
We go into the cidery, a green shed surrounded by lawn, ringed by bush. “The cold weather is great for fermenting,” he says. “I like to make my cider nice and slow. It develops more complex flavour.” The apples are picked by hand and binned by variety. Some are sharp, some are bitter sharp, others are sweet while the rest bitter sweet. To achieve different styles of cider Jonathan chooses and mixes different varieties of apples and then crushes them to make a blended apple juice. This is then fermented using both wild yeast and cultured yeast depending on the style.
The cider can spend weeks or up to 8 months on lees slowly developing more flavour and nuance. It is filtered, bottled and pasteurised on site.
The tasting room was built by an Englishman. Solid red brick surrounded by garden it has the feel of a village inn. It is warm and cosy against the chill outside. Perfect weather for cider. Daylesford Ciders fit very much into the traditional English style. Do not expect fizzy alcoholic lolly water. This stuff is the real deal. The Wild is made with Kingston Black and Sweet Coppin apples and fermented by 100% wild yeast. With its generous alcohol (7.4%) and slight touch of brettanomyces (funky yeast) it is very reminiscent of a good Normandy farmhouse cider. Try the Vintage Dry, with eight months on lees it has textural complexity that underlies punchy fruit aromas and refreshing bitterness. Many love the Summer Petillant a blend of table and cider apples that is slightly lighter and fruitier. “That’s a bridging cider,” says Clare. “It helps people who like the industrial sweet ciders understand the farmhouse ciders we make here.”
There is a basic menu is the dining room (Fri-Sun 12pm-3pm) with dishes that match perfectly with cider. Come for lunch of perhaps some slow-cooked free range pork with apples and cider reduction followed by perhaps some spiced cider and apple and rhubarb crumble. If you just want a snack consider Dan’s cider scones with home-made plum jam and fresh cream.