August 4, 2023
Celebrating the vintage, embracing the future
From humble beginnings to iconic brand – Thatcher’s Cider
As was the tradition in the early 1900s, Myrtle Farm – a mixed enterprise at the time – grew cider apple trees and pressed the fruit to make cider for its farm workers. William Thatcher soon became known for making the best cider around and began selling it in the local villages. The tradition continued through the generations to current cider-maker Martin Thatcher, William’s great grandson. The fifth generation is also now working for the business, which has its roots firmly in the Mendip Hills area of north Somerset.
Having been a mixed enterprise until 20 years ago, the farm now grows apples solely for cider production, with more than 500 varieties planted. They focus on a core range of 26 for commercial cider making, ranging from varieties with high tannin content, for ciders that require a complex depth to the flavour – such as Thatchers Vintage – to low tannin eating and juicing varieties for the increasingly popular lighter style ciders – such as Thatchers Katy.
Farm manager Chris – who grew up on a farm and previously worked at Frontier and Heineken – is particularly partial to Thatchers Rascal, crafted from bittersweet apples, but added: “My fridge is full of Thatchers Gold – you can’t beat it for a well-balanced cider which just hits the spot. Equally if I’m driving, a bottle of Zero – our alcohol-free cider – is just as good.”
As an homage to its early beginnings, the farm also has an exhibition orchard of 458 rare and heritage apple varieties curated by third-generation cider maker John Thatcher. Many of the varieties came from the National Fruit and Cider Institute at Long Ashton when it closed. “We believe this to be the largest collection of apples for cider in the country and is an incredibly important living library,” Chris commented. As well as honouring the traditional, they are currently trialing 100 varieties, exploring the cider apples of the future to keep up with consumer tastes.
Like many farms, Myrtle has also diversified its business, offering farm tours and running the popular Railway Inn which includes a restaurant and bar selling an array of ciders. The pub is located along a walking/cycle path close to the farm, The Strawberry Line. The farm also works closely with local schools to teach children about the life cycle of apple trees.
Read the full case study here
Listen to our Thatcher’s Cider podcast recorded live on farm! Click on the image below to listen