31 January, 2018

The Brännland Cider story pt 3. Why cider?

So we decided on cider. There were a few reasons. One was that apples were staring us right in the face. All around the village where I lived there were apple trees. In the yards of houses and old farms and on the edge of the woods where farms had once been.

The one crop we could actually grow in our own country that was the closest thing to a raw material that had the potential to become something in it’s own right while at the same time being connected to a longer established tradition in the world, was apples and thus it’s extension cider. We’ve been growing wine in southern Sweden for a few years but where we were, way north, wines were not an option. And beer, well every middle aged white male in the universe was starting a beer brewery. We wanted to find our own thing. 

Once our hearts were settled on making cider we started calling around the industry to see if there was anyone we could learn from. For some reason there was little or no movement or tradition in terms of making traditional cider in Sweden. Cider not based on concentrate or additives. We soon found out why. 

The feedback we got from the few people in our country who had any sort of relationship with making alcohol from fruit was overwhelmingly negative. In the chorus of people expressing doubt we heard things like “you can’t make cider from Swedish apples because they don’t have enough sugar” or “you can’t make apples from Swedish apples because the juice is impossible to ferment”.

And here comes another reason that cider became our course of action. Had we gotten mixed reactions from our surroundings about the viability of Swedish apples for traditional cider we might have been less decisive. 

But as the chorus of nay-sayers grew we felt that the reasons cited for a real Swedish cider not being possible were so disparate, so inconsistent, that they simply couldn’t based in actual experience. Simply put, if enough people tell you something is impossible bur for very different reasons, you should start being suspicious. 

The joy of finding something which very few others seemed to see as an option also strengthened the argument. So adding to the mix a large dose of “we will prove them wrong”, cider became our goal.

As is often the case with me, I felt the need to express this magic discovery (my mouth is way ahead of my feet on a regular basis) and I started blogging about the project. I claimed (without knowing what the end result could or would be) that we would now start the first real Swedish craft cidery and that we would work with the garden apples that were falling to the ground unused. 

In parallell I started a facebook-group where I invited my friends to come out and pick apples and so we started out. I named the group Brännland Cider, because that was the name of the village where I Iived at the time. And, just having escaped an english-centric software business man did it feel good to have some dots in the product name. 

I expected four or five people to turn up. But on the day in late September early October over 30 people came out to help.

That turn-up sparked something. Most of the people who wanted to take part were people our own age, late thirties, early forties. People who seemingly had everything materially and in terms of fulfilment in life. People who, in spite of what they had, also longed for something else, something more tangible than meetings and graphs and the grind of daily life. 

And we thought; If this idea of making something, of being part of something real, resounded not only in us, but in many others, we might be on to something. It felt like we had hit a nerve, spoken to a need that was unspoken to both in people’s souls as well as non existent in the market. The need to prove ourselves right grew. 

The plan when we started was to make a really simple scrumpy style cider, sell it back to the local community and grow slowly and so we’d bought a small basket press and the smallest available fruit crusher in the market. My basement, which was cool year round, would be the first “cidery”.

Like a lot of people who are interested in wine and dreams of making it, our idea of making cider was that we would simply pick the apples available to us, extract the juice from them and that they would then ferment into a great cider. 

Turned out, of course that we were wrong, but in hindsight, that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. It allowed us to enter into the process with naivety and “beginners mind” and without those we might not have been forced to where we are today. 

In the meantime the fruit was abundant, the juice was great, the October sun was shining, people were happy and the project quickly got picked up by one of the big Swedish wine magazines. What could possibly go wrong? 

/Andreas Sundgren Graniti, Brännland Cider