When I was a young little whipper snapper my granddad would take me on holiday to the West Country where we would walk along the Cornish coast and he would take clippings of various plants and bag them up to grow in his garden back home. He would pocket bluebells and rhododendrons, freesias and foxgloves and with a little love and attention, those little snippings would flourish and bloom into plants in their own right.
Just as my granddad would take a clipping and plant it to grow something amazing, Ben Culpin has taken the seeds from the cider company that he and his brother Alex co-owned, Ty Gwyn Cider, planted them and is nurturing his own plant to grow into his very own cider empire; Apple County Cider Co.
The two companies have now split, with Ben and Apple County residing in the original Monmouthshire orchards where the pairs’ late stepfather Jimmy McConnel grew cider since 1969, and Alex and Ty Gwyn have headed to pastures anew.
Ben has been making cider for six years now and during that time he has picked up his fair share of awards such as Gold in the 2013 Welsh Cider and Perry Society Championships and so I’m pleased to introduce him as the blog’s next cider maker in the ‘In-Cider Info’ series.
What were you doing prior to cider making?
I was working in London in Music Publishing.
What led you to cider?
Cider has always been my tipple as I was born a Coeliac so I couldn’t drink beer. When my late stepfather, Jimmy McConnel, asked if I would like to go into cider production I jumped at the opportunity.
If you were stranded on a desert island and one cider could wash up next to you, what would you hope and pray it would be?
Ty Bryn, Cross Ash
What sets your cider apart from the rest?
We specialise in single variety ciders, which enjoy a long cold fermentation producing a lovely depth of flavour.
What is your favourite cider from your own range and why?
The award winning Dabinett medium, the taste is delicately fruity with a hint of spice and long clean finish. Scrumptious!
What have been your proudest moments since you started your cider adventure?
Being awarded a double gold star for my Dabinett Medium cider in the Great Taste Awards and serving a cider punter at our farm shop and him saying to me he thought: it was the nicest cider he had ever tasted in his life.”
What does the future hold for your cider?
We will be concentrating in expanding our range of single variety ciders using rarer varieties of bittersweet apples along with some fruit ciders.
If you weren’t in the cider game, what would you be?
Driving around in an ice cream van serving my homemade ice-cream.
When you’re not making and selling cider, what are you doing?
Chatting to my eight month old son about cider making.