A Marlborough publican and hobbyist cider maker has taken the top award in the inaugural NZ Cider Festival amateur competition.
Owner of 5Tapped Haydn Mearns walked away with the 2020 Amateur Cider Maker trophy – ‘Cider the Road’, beating eight other competitors from the cider capital, Nelson.
“The judges reckon the top three were close but judging by their reactions they were pretty impressed,” Haydn says.
“When you think of Nelson, and all the fruit over there, I thought there would be some tough competition.
Haydn, with his partner and brewing sidekick Nikky, made the mad dash to the Nelson cider festival earlier this month after completing a half marathon in the Marlborough Sounds.
“Nikky had run a half marathon, the Lochmara half, that morning,” he says.
“We water-taxi’d back to Picton then rushed over to Nelson.
“The festival was cool; they had a big range of cider, top notch food stalls and entertainment.”
His winning cider, which he made about 50 litres of, is made using foraged and donated fruit.
“It’s gone from surplus fruit on my property to foraging fruit from all over Marlborough.”
He says fruit is still abundant in Marlborough, and he just uses what’s available.
“There are no rules as far as I’m concerned.
“It’s a creative way of using surplus fruit.”
The wild-fermented apple-based cider took about four months of “tweaking” before Haydn was happy with the result.
“I don’t even know what type of apples I’m using,” he laughs.
“I just chuck anything in there – it is what it is.
“Often, I’m tweaking and adjusting as I go – adding sugar or back-sweetening.
“It had a few faults that I was able to fix.
“Because we’re getting good results, and now this award, I’m considering doing 100 or 200 litres a year.”
He says there are hundred of breweries making amazing beers, but New Zealand brewers aren’t putting the same effort into cider.
“If you look at cider in the supermarket, there’s only half a dozen brands and a whole aisle of beer.
Haydn says he was “quietly confident” about doing well at the festival.
“I had no idea how I would do – although I had a feeling we had a pretty good brew this year.
“I was quietly confident.
“I’m very much still learning.”