There’s certainly never been a better time to drink cider. Once the preserve of underage girls and crusty old English men, the humble apple-based brew’s recent rise in popularity has seen a new wave of high quality boutique and commercial variants flood the local market. As cider fans ourselves, we had a crack at blending our own with the team from Cheeky Rascal at their recent Melbourne Food and Wine Festival event.

According to the UK’s National Association of Cider Makers, cider’s history dates back to pre-Norman Britain where abundant apple orchards were put to good use to produce a crowd-pleasing drink which became a particular staple for hard working rural farm hands, to the point that most were paid in pints for their day’s graft.

While some modern producers choose to stick with time-honoured British tradition, others, like Mornington Peninsula’s Cheeky Rascal, like to push the boundaries in the name of fun. Cheeky Rascal’s affable head brewer Wayne Hewett led the recent workshop, where participants got a chance to do some hands-on blending with juices from a range of single apple varietals (Fuji, Pink Lady, Granny Smith) and complementary fruit wines. It’s most common for cider to be simply left alone as essentially fermented, carbonated apple juice, however Hewett likes to have a bit of fun blending the apple base with other fruits like passionfruit or strawberry, which adds a point of difference to his particular product.

After taste-testing a range of commercial cider styles (for research’s sake, of course), workshop participants were given an in-depth tutorial on the fundamentals of cider making with notes on flavour profiling, acid/sugar balance and seasonality. With the requisite training ticked-off, the crowd was then given free reign to go forth and create. The result was a boisterous and irreverent science experiment where teams of eager blenders road-tested various combinations to come up with the ultimate blend to impress astute judge Hewett.

The Broadsheet team scored a respectable 8/10 for their boozy concoction, which, with its lively passionfruit nuances, Hewett noted as “pleasantly reminiscent of a good Marlborough sauvignon blanc”.

In honour of all good bygone British farm hands, our afternoon’s toil was duly rewarded with a take home four-pack of our very own brew.

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