Changing Times

The Blue Barrel story (so far) – and our next chapter…


Nottingham has given us so much.


Over a decade ago, we began scrumping apples around Clifton, particularly at Summerwood Community Garden which always supported our cider-making journey. Soon, we were part of Nottingham’s fantastic cider scene within a city and community we love – with its proactive environmental and activist scene, independent micro pubs, breweries and retailers.


We’ll never forget our first CAMRA comp at Notts Beer and Cider Festival… Or having a laugh with our lovely volunteers as they helped catch falling fruit on rain-soaked tarps as Leo shook the branches above… Or using our amazing bike-powered apple scratter…


That’s why we’re so proud of our Nottingham ciders. Not only delicious, they’ve supported our local food growing and zero waste ethos by showing how rescuing desert, dual purpose and discarded cider apples can be sustainable – and fun.


So why are we moving to Cambridgeshire? It’s been a difficult decision. But having both lost our dads quite recently we just needed to be closer to our remaining family. In 2014, we planted an orchard in an old grazing field of Leo’s mum’s in Cambridgeshire. His late dad had helped us plant 280 cider apple and perry pear trees and we have the opportunity to convert the stables into a cidery. So we’ll now have the space to trial new techniques and test batches of single and dual varieties. It’s simply too good an opportunity to miss.


And what about keeping the Notts connection? We definitely plan to continue making Nottingham cider using Nottingham apples. Meanwhile, Summerwood Community Garden will be applying for charitable status and focusing on food security and sustainability – so hopefully we can partner on future projects.  Due to planting so many trees around Nottinghamshire, we’re responsible for their care – so we’ll be making monthly return visits to check on the trees, supply our Nottingham blends to local folk, and hanging out with friends again obviously. It’s massively important for us to retain our local links.


So that means cider production across two sites? Exciting, right? We’ll continue to press at Hockerwood Park Farm using apples from Flintham and Nottingham to produce our popular Notts range. AND we’ll harvest our own orchard apples to make a West Country style cider: from intensely tannic bittersweets to classic sharps to produce ciders made almost entirely of cider fruit. That means creating limited edition small batch ciders based on individual taste profiles of specific apples.


When’s the big move then? In August, we leave sunny Sherwood (there may be tears!) for Oakington, Cambridgeshire. Then we’ll need to reroof the stables to form our first own proper cider-making HQ. We actually pressed a small selection of apples last year so our debut limited edition Cambridgeshire blend cider release happens this September. And Oakington is actually home to the rare black squirrel – so, don’t worry, our iconic squirrel emblem will live on!


And the future? Firstly, trees are our passion so we’re creating our own Community Interest Company (Trees Are Good) to focus on tree planting and orchard regeneration. Because making cider for a living is our dream life, it goes hand-in-hand with planting and nurturing edible fruit trees for others to enjoy. Our ultimate ambition is to make and sell outstanding cider direct from our own cidery. Above all, we want to continue being inspired by EVERYONE who has shared our wonderful 10-year journey.

We couldn’t have done it without…

  • Summerwood Community Garden (where it all began…) – now in the expert hands of our good friend Audrey
  • Magpie Brewery (above and beyond supportive of what we do)
  • Patrick at Hockerwood Park Farm (inspired us to build our business and kindly provided the space to do this)
  • Our lovely friend Mick from Dizzy Dog Cider (he’ll continue to work alongside us, whilst launching his own cider enterprise ‘Dizzy Dog’  at our Notts base at Hockerwood )
  • East Midlands Real Cider & Perry group (massive online support network that champions local cider makers)
  • ALL the kind, friendly and helpful folk who have helped us (from showing us beautiful lost orchards, found linear orchards and random trees across Nottingham – and then helping us scrump all that forgotten fruit)

Love and thanks, Leo & Ems