While craft and artisanal food production (brewing, cheesemaking, etc.) have become all the rage, it’s refreshing to meet someone who embraces the small batch process not for its cache, but for the work itself. And David Llewellyn of Lllewellyns Orchards north of Dublin seems to be just such a person. His one-day cider making course is infused with passion for the process and enables students to take craft cider making on for themselves and scale it to their own personal tastes and needs.
A trained horticulturist with almost three decades of experienced working with fruit, Llewelyn has been making cider since the late1980s (commercially since 2000). Yet he champions keeping things as simple and true to the ingredients as possible. Accordingly his course is long on practicality and short on rules and, “thou shalt nots”. For example, he prefers not to pasteurize, or add yeast, but he still discusses those processes and explains the benefits and drawbacks. As a result the Llewellyns Orchard Cider Making Course is for anyone wanting to learn to make craft cider, whether that’s as a dalliance, a dedicated craft/hobby, or as a budding commercial enterprise.
In The Classroom
Gathered around mugs of tea and apple cake in the Llewellyns hoop house, the talk amongst the students was all about failed attempts at brewing, bad seasons in our gardens, deformed fruit trees, craft ciders we liked, and commercial macro-brew ciders as a blight on society.
In short, the class I attended in late September of 2015 was self-selected for people genuinely interested in cider making and craft DIY projects.
But we were pretty much all just getting started. There were a couple of engineers, two seasoned home brewers looking to expand their repertoire, two sisters who’d inherited a family farm and recently planted some apple trees, and a couple who’d tried their hand at cider making and wanted to know what they’d done, “wrong”. One fellow even flew in from Estonia in the hopes of learning enough to turn two back garden family orchards and a years-long cider making hobby into a small business.
Regardless of where we’d come from or our ambitions the bespectacled and Birkenstock-clad Llewellyn greeted us all with characteristic Irish charm and good cheer. And as we leisurely settled into the class under a canopy of vines in the orchard’s all-weather greenhouse, Llewellyn held forth on the basics of cider making, and led us through a discussion of process, equipment, and product. Questions were encouraged and clearly answered. Later we were led on a walking and tasting tour of the Llewellyns Orchard orchard.
Amidst discussions of pests, pruning, soil treatment and planting, we also touched on the differences in “eating” apples versus cider apples and tried fresh-off-the-tree samples of each; some of which we later tasted as finished cider.
After lunch in a local pub we returned to the earthy greenery of the polytunnel classroom and went through an extensive cider tasting that ranged from bone-dry craft ciders to the saccharine sweetness of commercial atrocities.
We even sampled a few artisanal efforts from other countries (just to give us a sense of regional variation). Then we tried a few ciders brewed by the students (on their own before class). David pointed out to the couple who’d wondered what they’d done “wrong” that theirs was actually quite drinkable. It was just much dryer than they were use to.
The class ended with all of us loading apples into a pulper and then taking turns at the cider press. The resulting juice was then blended and decanted into 5-liter food grade fermenting containers that we each carried home with instructions for producing our first batch of craft Irish cider.
A few days later we received an email containing copious notes on the material covered in class, and a list on online resources (valuable reference guides, and brick and mortar suppliers).
Overall, David Llewellyn’s cider making course is a good practical course for beginner and intermediate cider making enthusiasts. The one-day format, while perhaps a tad rushed, packs a lot in and is suitable for anyone local, regional, or visiting Ireland for a few days and wanting to take home more than just photos.
Text and photos by Glenn D. Kaufmann
The course I took was held at the Lllewellyns Orchard in Lusk, a tiny village about an hour north of Dublin.
By train – (from Connelly station) take the Drogheda line to the Rush/Lusk station and then either walk (about two miles) or call a local cab
By Dublin Bus – take the 33 line and then either walk (a bit over a mile) or call a local cab
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