Heck's cider in Somerset, U.K. has produced traditional farmhouse cider and perry for six generations. Their long history was evident by the large wall filled with award plaques and newspaper articles of their journey. Andrew Heck was a warm and welcoming host, though not one to speak at length. Their cidery has a retail shop that sells produce, local goods as well as their cider. The facility was made up of a number of stone buildings with tanks and supplies packed in just about every available space.
They produce a number of single varietal ciders and perries, which was unique compared to the other cideries we visited. Most of the cider for sale at their cidery is stored in wooden casks and bag in box containers. Customers are encouraged to blend any of the ciders and perries together to their liking. These ciders are sold in plastic jugs of varying sizes, the largest being about 2 gallons. In addition to cider and perry they also produce 18 varieties of apple juice.
Heck's was not an orchard based cidery, though they do grow most of the apples and pears used in their ciders at off site orchards. They grow 18 varieties of perry pears. Since there was no orchard tour here the discussion of orcharding practices and fruit characteristics was minimal.
Their fruit processing area is under cover but not enclosed in a building. When fruit is received it is washed in a voran elevator grinder and is pressed on a Voran belt press. It looked to be about a 3' wide belt. They can process about 3 tonnes of apples per hour, a bit slower when pressing perry pears. When pressing cider apples they average about 130 gallons per ton.
All of their ciders are 100% juice and wild fermented. Keeving is not a part of their process. He did not mention the use of sulfites at any step in their process. From the press, juice is transferred into Rotoplas black HDPE tanks roughly 500 gallons in capacity. These were the largest tanks they had on site and not a one was stainless steel. They have no bottom port, just a manway at the top in the center. The tanks were originally used for transporting orange juice. When fermentation is complete and the cider is ready to be finished, they utilize sucralose for their medium and sweet ciders. He uses roughly 7 to 7.5 grams of sucralose in 50 gallons of cider. For some ciders that will be pasteurized and packaged in bag in box they will use sucrose to sweeten.
Annual production is about 50,000 gallons of cider and perry. Most of Heck's ciders are sold in bag in box format. Some ciders are bottled and carbonation is done with the bottling machine they use. They do not utilize any brite tanks for carbonation. Some of the varietal ciders on hand when we visited were Morgan Sweet, Broxwood Foxwhelp, Browns, Port wine of Glastonbury, Slack Ma Girdle, Kingston Black and Tom Putt. Varietal perries on hand included Blakeny Red and Hendre Huffcap. All of these were still ciders/perries.