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03rd June, 2024

The championship-winner was a Yarlington Mill, made at Bere, near Langport on the Somerset Levels, home of the Lockyer family, who have been on the farm for almost a hundred years.  But long-time Somerset cider-maker Jim Lockyer credits his son-in-law Chris Smoldon for the vision which has come to fruition at the Bath and West.

“I’ve been making cider here since 1988”, says Jim.  “But in the early days, it was really just farmhouse scrumpy for local consumption.  It was when Chris became involved that the business was taken to a new level.  Almost from the start, he said that his ambition was to win a Gold Medal at the Bath and West, and now he’s gone one better.”

It was Chris Smoldon who was presented with the Rupert Best Trophy by Professor Geoffrey Dixon on behalf of the Worshipful Company of Fruiterers.

“We couldn’t be happier or more surprised”, he said. “I knew it was a pretty good cider when we tasted it, but to come out on top ahead of some of the finest ciders in Britain was something I never expected.”

The Reserve Champion, from Rawlins Cider at Horton , was made using the technique called ‘keeving’, whereby the fermentation process is halted midway through, so as to produce a naturally sweeter, sparkling cider, without the use of sugar or carbonation.

“It is a complicated process which you have to get exactly right”, explains Mark Rawlins.  “But when the end product is as good as the cider which came runner-up in the Championships, it is well worth it.”

The Pewterers’ Trophy for the Champion Farmhouse Cider is headed across the Bristol Channel to the Palmer’s Upland Cyder company near Newport for their Rubber Chicken medium cider.  Phil Palmer worked in the steel industry before turning his hand to cider-making, using apples collected from orchards in the Abergavenny area.

“It’s a dream come true”, he said after receiving his trophy from Anthony Steiner of the Worshipful Company of Pewterers.

“You can’t get a bigger competition than the British Cider Championships, and although I knew that this particular cider was a good one, having won at the Big Apple a month ago, I never expected us to win in this exalted company.”

The Reserve Farmhouse Champion also came from outside the traditional cider-making areas, being a medium farmhouse produced by Alistair Smith, of Sisson and Smith Cider at Eastwood near Nottingham.  As well as using locally grown apples, Alistair buys in fruit from Somerset and Hereford to produce his award-winning ciders.

The other Trophy winners were:

The Vigo Trophy for Champion Apple Juice:  Butford Organics, of Bodenham, Herefordshire, for their Spartan apple juice.

The Lawrence Reilly Perry Cup:  Hecks Farmhouse Perry of Street in Somerset for their Keeved Oldfield Perry.

The Westons Cider Cup for best fruit cider:  Rob Whale of Southdown Cider, Shepton Montague, Somerset for his Pineapple Cider.

The Arthur Davies Cup for best bottled/canned/single variety cider:  Wildings Cider of Chew Magna in Somerset for their Gold.

The Vigo Presses award for Best Newcomer:  Steve Faulkner, of Molly’s Cider,

Rosette for the best modern cider: Little Pomona, of Bromyard for their Wading In.

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