Tom Oliver Session - Wells, England

Tom Oliver Session – Swan Hotel, Wells, UK

Tom Oliver, featuring a barrel of cider with it's bung held in place with a t-shirt bearing the face of Jimmy Page. Secret keeving trick?

Tom Oliver, featuring a barrel of cider with it's bung held in place with a t-shirt bearing the face of Jimmy Page. Secret keeving trick?

Tom was in town for the Royal Bath and West Show, so while we weren’t able to visit his farm and cidery as a group, he graciously agreed to come to our hotel and talk with us for an afternoon to discuss the mysteriously fickle art of keeving.

What is keeving? A sub 5.5% ABV cider, that is naturally sweet, unfiltered (only racking), and then bottle conditioned. The reason for this is that if it is over 5.5% then you have to pay the high duty rate of champagne.

In Tom’s opinion, keeving has a high failure rate – so here are some keys to consider:

  • Ambient Temp of 10°C – better at 8°, even better at 6°, 12° is alright but 8 is best

  • Minimum intervention – DO NOT BULLY!

  • Old Trees, Traditionally Grown (only because traditional orchards mean old)

    • Bittersweets (for their gentle and soft characteristics) and  some bittersharps – NO HARD TANNIN FOR KEEVING!

    • Stay away from acids

    • Fruit is key! (Doesn’t measure YAN – just knows from many, many years of keeves)

  • Maceration: time fruit spends after milling is crucial – 24-48 hours

    • This will lend you less problems down the road

    • Longer chain tannins come back to haunt when bottling (create snow globes)

    • USE A PACK PRESS!

    • Find out what your fruit requires

      • Tools, apples, resources: “Whatcha got, is whatcha got”

Inside Tom's production space.

Inside Tom's production space.

 

  • Poo is a crime

 

In Tom’s opinion, a true keeved cider happens naturally but these few things help the process:

 

  • Picking apples between Oct – Nov

  • PME (producers: STDANA, SANICO) and then Calcium Chloride flakes (powder) or liquid when it Floculates (3rd Day)

    • Take 1L, mix in the Calcium Chloride, wait until it becomes the texture of semolina

  • Ferments in 1000L totes (IBC), the plastic allows you to shine a Halogen light on the side to track the process

  • You want Fermentation to start but just barely – Never above 14°

  • Rack a couple times heading into Christmas, maybe once over New Year’s

    • Rack when Barometric pressure is high, 3-4 times before the cold weather comes

      • “IF A KEEVE IS A KEEVE IT’S A KEEVE!”

  • Should be 1.020 when you bottle, in the bottle it will drops to 1.016 (no yeast into bottle!)

  • Use cidre bouche corks – small, non-mushrooms short corks