The lovely Heather from the Bristol Bloggers group invited me on a Thatchers Cider Tour at the Myrtle Farm in the town of Sandford, which is located in the North Somerset region of England.
As I’m a huge cider fan (you can read all about that, and a short history of cider here), of course I was excited for the visit to this well-known British cider company! We would be visiting the orchards, have a behind-the-scenes look at the Thatchers Factory (The apple cider mill), visit the restaurant and of course try of the ciders that the Thatchers family has been producing here for over 100 years!
As October is official Cider and Perry (apple and pear cider) month ánd the middle of harvest, what beter time that to visit now?
If you are curious and want to know where is Thatchers cider made, then follow along:
Thatchers Cider Tour
While I’ve been to quite a few brewery and distillery tours, I have actually never been to a cider mill before, and with it being my personal favourite drink, I was super interested in everything our guides had to tell us.
We get a short introduction to the farm and learn that it was 1904 when William John Thatcher first made his apple cider at Myrtle Farm. His farm workers got partly paid in cider, if you can believe it! Thatchers has always been a family business. That means that everything they do is about making sure that there’ll be a viable business for the next generation.
At The Thatchers Cider Farm, you can actually book your own cider tour and learn all about the craft of cider making. Individual tours of max. 15 people run every Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 11 AM. This is what you can expect:
We start our tour with dressing up in Thatchers hats, reflecting jackets (this is a working farm, after all – safety first!) and get a pair of rubber boots to wear if we want. After just 10 minutes outside the changing room, I’m happy that I got them, because it’s raining to hard that my umbrella is deteriorating on the spot and and my own shoes would have definitely stayed stuck in the muddy field, and I’d have to continue on socks.
My excitement for cider makes that I stop caring about the cold wind and water coming down and I soak up (literally) all the information our guide tells us about the different apple varieties, the growing process and the harvest they are in the middle of right now.
Alongside famous cider apples like Somerset Redstreak and Dabinett, and popular dessert apples like Katy, they also grow 458 varieties of rare traditional apples in their exhibition orchard, the largest collection of cider apple trees in England! Just 25 varieties of these are used for their ciders and each of them have their own role to play when it comes to flavour and aroma.
Coming straight from the orchards, all apples from Thatchers get tipped into their apple bays, that can hold up to 100 tons. They also have apples that they buy from different places, and they all stay strictly separated, to keep the flavours as pure as possible.
We were lucky, as a truckload of apples just arrived and got dumped into one of the bays to get washed. Definitely the most satisfying 10 seconds of my week, I can tell you!
When they are clean, the apples get mashed and then pressed (September to December) to extract the juice. With their 5 presses, they can press about 450 tonnes of apples every DAY at the height of the season! When the family installed their first press back in the 1950s, this was only about 6 tonnes… They’ve come a long way!
After checking out the bays, we went into the mill, where I couldn’t take any photos, but we saw how the cider fermentation process worked (special yeast is added to the apple juice, to turn sugar into alcohol), how they got cider from apple juice, where the cider got stored and later where the cider got bottled and labeled. It looked a little bit like a winery, to be honest, but then smelling of crisp apples everywhere. I preferred it!
The Tasting Room
After seeing the whole process from growing to bottling, it was time to hit the tasting room at Thatchers cider Somerset. Can’t say I wasn’t excited about this part of the tour. We started with their famous ‘Katy’ cider, which is named after one of their best apple varieties. It’s a medium dry cider and really clear of colour.
Then we also tasted a few others, among which the Apple ‘Cider Barn Redwood’ and ‘Cider Barn Redstreak’. Both excellent flavours and definitely some of my favourites.
Here is a quick overview of all the ciders that Thatchers currently have:
- Family Favourites
- Thatchers Haze Cider [ABV 4.5% // Apple Cider Cloudy & Sweet]
- Thatchers Gold Cider [ABV 4.8% //Apple Cider Smooth & Golden]
- Characterful Ciders
- Thatchers Green Goblin Cider [ABV 5% // Medium Dry, Full Flavoured]
- Thatchers Old Rascal Cider [ABV 4.5% // Medium Dry, Full Bodied]
- Premium Ciders
- Thatchers Vintage Cider [ABV 7.4% // Rich & Oak Aged]
- Thatchers Katy Cider [ABV 7.4% // Light & Crisp]
- Thatchers Summer Vintage Cider [ABV 7.4% // Floral & Fruity]
- Stan’s Cheddar Valley Cider [Naturally Cloudy // ABV 6%]
- Stan’s Trad Cider [Traditional, Naturally Hazy // ABV 6%]
- Stan’s Big Apple Cider Cans [Softly-Rounded, Medium Dry Still // ABV 5%]
- Stan’s Leaf Twister Cider Cans [Traditional Big Apple Cider // ABV 5%]
- Stan’s Barrel Roller Cider Cans [Full Flavoured Traditional Cider // ABV 6%]
- Cider Barn
- Thatchers Rose Cider [Medium Sweet with Light Fruity Taste // ABV 5.4%]
- Thatchers Redstreak Cider [Single Variety, Bold/Peppery Cider // ABV 8.4%]
- Thatchers Redwood Cider [Rich, Intense Mouth Feel, Hint of Vanilla // ABV 6.0%]
- Thatchers Family Reserve Cider [ABV 11% // Dry & Delicate]
The Railway Inn Restaurant
After all the cider tasting, we were definitely all getting a bit hungry, but what we would find in the Thatchers restaurant called the “Railway Inn”, I don’t think any of us would have expected!
The food menu was not only extensive, but many of the dishes featured cider, which of course I had to try for myself. I went for the following:
- STARTER > Mussels, Cockles & Clams (In a Thatchers Cider & Leek Sauce + Homemade Bread)
- MAIN > Thatchers Cider & Honey Glazed Gammon (with Fried Duck Egg, Spiced Pineapple Chutney, Triple Cooked Chips & Mixed Leaf Salad)
- PUDDING > 1 Scoop Salted Caramel Ice Cream + 1 Scoop Haze Sorbet.
And if you are wondering, YES, the Haze Sorbet is made of Cider. Because, why not?!
The Thatchers BBQ menu just looked amazing and all of the food that I ordered tasted to incredibly good, I would love to come back here one day and taste more of their menu. I can highly recommend spending some time here during your visit and make reservations for lunch or dinner.
Thatchers Cider Shop
All happy and full with amazing food and ciders, we made a quick last stop over at the Thatchers shop, to stock up on Thatchers cider gift sets, bottles, bar runners, Thatchers cider glasses, apple cider jugs and what not.
Some people even bought entire pirate jugs of cider! Arrrr!!!
Wow, I had such an amazing cider experience over at the Myrtle Farm of Thatchers Somerset and I can highly recommend paying them a visit. Whether you just go for the restaurant, the bar or for a tour to see how cider is made and have a tasting session afterwards, I’m sure that the stories of the family and their incredible food & ciders will be well-worth the drive over!
Visit Thatchers in Somerset:
Myrtle Farm, Station Rd, Sandford, Winscombe BS25 5RA
Cider Flavours: thatcherscider.co.uk/our-cider
Guided Tours: thatcherscider.co.uk/visit-us/thatchers-tours
Railway Inn: therailwayinn.com
£12.00 per person, about 2 hours, English language only. Make sure to wear closed shoes and proper clothing, especially when it rains! Minimum age is 15 years and the tasting is only for 18+ (always bring your ID). No photography is allowed on the tour.
Book well in advance, these tours are popular!
One of their funny commercials you might see on UK television!
- Cider Cider (cidercider.nl) *Dutch Site
- Het Cider Huis (hetciderhuis.nl) *Dutch Site
- World Cider Awards (worldciderawards.com)
- Real Cider (real-cider.co.uk)
- List of Cider Producers in the United Kingdom (wikipedia.org)
- South West of England Cidermakers’ Association (sweca.org.uk)
- The Welsh Perry & Cider Society (welshcider.co.uk)
Here are all our articles where we mention lovely ciders:
- What Is Cider? All You Need To Know Guide To Cider Brands!
- Restaurant Tierra Astur In Oviedo, Spain: Asturian Food And Cider Feast
- Cider Tasting In Montreal, Canada
Disclaimer: I was kindly hosted by the Bristol Bloggers group and the people at Somerset Thatchers to experience their tour, tasting session and lunch in exchange for an honest review and social media mentions. All photos, opinions and all the love for cider in this article is 100% my own, as always!