Sheppy’s Cider Maker – David Sheppy Interview
Continuing our cider theme David Sheppy, Managing Director and Head Cider Maker at Sheppy’s tells us how the brand has grown from his mother selling cider from the roadside to exporting to more than 10 countries whilst staying true to their 200 year old heritage.
Can you tell us about the history of Sheppy’s
It all began 200 years ago at Iwood farm in Somerset. Like all dairy and beef farmers at that time, Sheppy’s cider was produced as a sideline. My great, great, great grandfather – John Sheppy, started off the cider business in 1816, but it was my grandfather, Stanley Sheppy, who first established Sheppy’s as a well respected and well known cider making brand. Six generations later and Sheppy’s continues to flourish. Today it is a multi award winning premium traditional cider brand, being exported around the world.
It was inevitable that I would continue in the family’s cider footsteps. It was a huge part of my childhood as I would often accompany my mother as she sold Sheppy’s Cider from the roadside! Today Sheppy’s is run by myself and my wife Louisa, and is based at Three Bridges Farm, in Somerset, where we produce more than 18 varieties of traditional premium cider – in bottle, keg and bag-in-box. The family has been here for more than 100 years. Most of the apples that we use to create our ciders are grown in our orchards here, and we continue to use the same methods – combined with a little modern help – to create our distinctive range of ciders, including our vast 100-year-old oak vats.
What changes to the company did you implement when you took over the reins in 1998?
In the years since we have taken over the reins, Sheppy’s has changed quite considerably. It was important to keep up with new modern trends – but we also pride ourselves on remaining true to our 200-year-old heritage. We have pioneered the mixing of cider apples with dessert apples; we are now exporting to more than 10 countries – and we are currently undergoing a dramatic renovation to create a new visitor centre and tea rooms at Three Bridges Farm, as we continue to grow the Sheppy’s brand.
In brief, take us through the process from orchard to glass
We grow high quality traditional cider apple varieties in our orchards, including rarer or unusual ones like Kingston Black, and blend these for their special characters to achieve well-balanced tastes. Our processing, from pressing to bottling, combines modern machinery and traditional techniques, and once the juice is extracted we ferment and store it in a mixture of giant oak vats, some of which are at least 100 years old, and steel vessels. The cider is allowed to mature until sampling confirms it’s ready to be processed and packaged into the ciders that our customers are familiar with. It takes years to be a really experienced cider maker – and patience and respect for the raw product are essential to produce premium quality cider that tastes great. It is an award winning combination and we are very proud of that here at Sheppy’s
What changes and challenges have you seen to the industry over the last 10 years?
Sheppy’s as a business continues to flourish as the demand for premium craft brands grows both nationally, and internationally. The biggest challenge that we face is making sure we balance the increased demand whilst maintaining our roots, quality and provenance.
Any plans to add any more varieties to your ever growing range?
This year we have introduced our bicentennial celebratory cider, Old Conky, and a new flavoured variant – Cider with Elderflower. We do have an exciting new addition to the range in 2017. We will be introducing Sheppy’s Cloudy Orchard, initially in 500ml bottles from Jan/Feb 2017. We may decide to roll Cloudy Orchard out in kegs around Easter next year. The ABV will be 5.0%.
What is your most popular selling brand both on and off trade?
Our best selling bottled cider is still Sheppy’s Oak Matured Vintage, whilst our best selling draught cider is Somerset Draught.
Lastly in your opinion what’s the best food pairing?
Craft ciders certainly pair wonderfully with food – cheese is a particular favourite. Sheppy’s ciders work well with different varieties of cheese. For example Sheppy’s Falstaff, which has delicate pear and almond overtones, pairs well with a hard goats cheddar – while Sheppy’s Kingston Black, which is slightly sharp, complements a cheddar.