Dorset, Minchington, Blandford Forum:
Cranborne Chase Cider
Saturday 10th October 2015
Linda and Bob Thompson
This was the first visit of the day to a cider farm. We were on a tour of them organised by APPLE. They are the committee of CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) that deals specifically with Cider and Perry. A different cider producing area of the country is selected for each year’s visit and now it was the turn of Dorset.
We all met up at Dorchester South railway station for an 11.15 departure in a hired coach. The driver had the vehicle in gear and was ready to go when the last three travellers arrived, considerably out of breath.
We had a long drive to our first visit via the outskirts of Blandford Forum where we had a distant glimpse of the Badger Brewery of Hall & Woodhouse.
In just under an hour of travelling we had arrived at Cranborne Chase Cider. This is based at Myncen Farm in the hamlet of Minchington. Its 270 acres are in a bucolic setting on Cranborne Chase, a designated area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB).
The farm has been in the hands of the Meaden family for three generations. Bill Meaden is the man in charge of cider production.
He started cider production in 2011 using apples from the farm. These are all traditional cider apples that hadn’t been used for some time.
They consist mostly of Brown’s Apple, a sharp cider apple along with some Coppins and Alford, both sweet varieties. They are used after they drop from the trees. They are then washed and sorted. Next they’re put through an electric scatter mill which reduces them to small pieces.
They are then put through a home-made press which can press up to 1,000 litres per day. The juice then goes into large plastic containers where it stays over the winter to ferment.
In the early spring it goes into oak barrels formerly used for whisky production. This enables a secondary fermentation to occur. Bill offers a nice quote in “as soon as you can hear the cuckoo, you can start drinking your cider”.
In his first year of production Bill produced 6,000 litres of cider. He has planted another 170 trees and buys in more fruit from Simon Baxter of Sherborne Cider in Longburton. These are bitter sweet varieties to balance the home production.
Other apples are bought in as the annual output is now over 20,000 litres. All are sourced from Dorset.
Myncen Farm has changed considerably over the years.
When the family first took it on it had arable land along with a herd of cattle for beef. That was changed to a herd of dairy cows and free range pigs. These days it is completely arable with wheat and also a lot of land set aside for conservation schemes to encourage wildlife with many different habitats.
We pulled up and parked near the farm and walked the short distance up to the barn where the cider is made. Just before the buildings we came across the “Cider Shack”.
This a trailer that is based on a shepherd’s hut and is used as an outlet at the many open air events that are found in Dorset and its surrounding counties.
Our group were very pleased to see that the counter of the shack had four poly-barrels on it facing outwards in a “serve yourself” fashion.
Four ciders were offered: Sweet (5.5%); Medium (6.0%); Dry (6.5%) and Vintage (7.0%).
We tried them all but couldn’t decide between Dry or Vintage as our favourite, eventually pumping for the Dry.
We would like to thank everybody for what was a wonderful visit especially Andria Briers and Chris Rouse of CAMRA and the Meaden family.
They have a static Cider Shack at the farm which sells bottled and draught cider to take away and also a selection of local produce.
Cranborne Chase Cider, Myncen Farm, Minchington, Blandford Forum DT11 8DH.