Hogan's Cider


At James Clay and Sons we’ve been privileged to curate a range of exceptional beers for over 40 years, and in 2018 we were proud to round out our selection with the addition of Hogan’s Cider. Cidermaking in the UK is undergoing a triumphant revival, and we thought this was the ideal time to chat to Allen and Jane Hogan to learn more.

The original story of Hogan’s cider starts with John Stewart, a remarkable character introduced to Allen and Jane by the people they bought their house from when they moved to the area in the early Eighties. John lived in an old water mill, without mains electricity, using the waterwheel to drive the machinery to press apples. He’d make about 400 gallons of cider each year (giving half away, and drinking the rest), with a process that could best be described as rustic. Allen remembers that when making cider ‘John’s concession to hygiene was to dip all the gear in the river and pull it back out again’. But despite his rudimentary approach to cider John remained a huge inspiration to Allen ‘We enjoyed his company and helped him with cider making. John was a highly intelligent guy, very resourceful and self educated. He inspired me to get into the business, so I took time off and did a course. Jane and I did the numbers, and despite what the spreadsheet said we went ahead and started the business.’

John Stewart, Allen's late mentor and producer of a mean Damson Wine
John Stewart, Allen's late friend, mentor, and producer of a mean Damson Wine

In the early 2000s as Allen and Jane were deciding to establish Hogan’s; cider in the UK was going through a boom of sorts, with beer garden tables all over the country suddenly covered in the iconic Magners pint bottles and glasses (the ones that were just too small leaving the bottle as a free advert on every drinker’s table). But this lack of diversity played into Hogan’s hands ‘When we started up you could count the keg cider producers on one hand. This helped us set our stall out producing a high quality kegged cider fermented from 100% juice and that stood us in good stead.’

Hogan’s approach production differently than most of those original peers. Apples are processed in Autumn when they’re ripe, and they go to fermentation without temperature control typically with a champagne yeast. The keeved fermentation, French Revelation uses wild yeast, additionally Brettanomyces (Brett) is a favourite yeast. When pressing late harvested varieties in December, the juice can come off the press at 0 degrees, and it won’t ferment at all until January or February. From start to finish their production process can take up to a year.

Allen harvesting apples with a panking pole
Allen harvesting apples with a panking pole

‘What we try to do is innovate. We’re constantly looking at new methods of production. One thing we’re very keen on is Brett which we use in a number of ciders.’ Hogan’s were part of the One Juice project, alongside Oliver’s, Ross Cider, Little Pomona, and Pilton. Each producer was given 1000L of juice from the same pressing and encouraged to use it to showcase their house character. For Allen this meant ‘pasteurising the juice, almost heresy in the cider world, adding Brett and doing a very slow fermentation before bottle conditioning. I could spot ours straight away in the blind tasting due to the Brett. It has that earthy quality that I feel all cider should have. Cider is a basic agricultural product. You crush apples and ferment it, there’s no finesse to it. Brett lends itself to that approach. I’m of the view that if done properly then quality will always shine through’

In the UK a large proportion of the cider market is occupied by ciders flavoured with other fruits, to the point that consumers expect any cider maker to be producing something fruited. At tastings and events consumers would constantly ask Allen and Jane ‘Do you have anything fruity?’ Rather pithily they would always respond with ‘last time we checked, apple was a fruit’. But, he admits that Hogan’s have been ‘dragged screaming into the fruit cider world, doing it our own way by fermenting raspberry juice with Brettanomyces, and then blending back with dry cider to make ‘Got Anything Fruity?’

Raspberry juice undergoing brett fermentation
Raspberry juice undergoing brett fermentation for 'Got Anything Fruity?'

Fruit cider is a thorny issue due to how cider is taxed by HMRC. According to Excise Notice 162, the duty category changes when fruit juices other than apple or pear are added to cider. This means that something like ‘Got Anything Fruity?’ is taxed according to the made-wine bracket, meaning that it incurs more than twice the duty that would be paid on a normal cider, and if it crosses 4% ABV the duty is three times as much. But, once a fruit cider is considered ‘made-wine’ there is no requirement for the base fermentable to be apples, or even any kind of fruit derivative (Excise Notice 163 for taxation regulation fans). This means it is possible to produce fruit cider very cheaply by fermenting simple glucose, and adding fruit extracts. Jane suggests this is a key difference between the freedom afforded to craft breweries and experimentation from cider makers ‘Breweries don’t have to deal with these taxation difficulties. The duty implications of these experiments are quite significant, and we could never keep pace with the number of releases a small modern brewery does.

Jane foraging for elderflower
Jane foraging for elderflower

These difficulties aside, Hogan’s do experiment as much as possible, thanks in no small part to ‘Cider Gandalf’ Shaun. Previously a cider maker at Weston’s for 26 years (where Hogan’s used to do their bottling and kegging), Allen describes Shaun as ‘inspirational with our innovative products. He’s helped us develop a range over and above the usuals, and we’ve given him the room and space to exercise his creativity.’ This is evident from the depth of the range at Hogan’s with their core ciders covering a wide range of classic British styles, and an innovation range including everything from a 1% ABV cider, sour ciders fermented in collaboration with brewers Fierce and Tiny Rebel, and all the way through to a seasonal mulled cider.

Shaun 'Cider Gandalf'
Shaun 'Cider Gandalf'

Cider as a category is undergoing significant change at the moment as smaller, artisanal producers like Hogan’s begin to grab the attention of the drinking public. In some regards this growth in interest tracks alongside that of ‘craft beer’ around ten years ago, but the availability and accessibility of knowledge is still limited. This lack of public awareness baffles Allen as ‘cidermaking goes back over 1000 years in this country, there are 300 cider apple varieties identified, and there’s a huge depth of information going right back, but it doesn’t translate to the public. We always get asked where’s your brewery, but can you imagine saying that to a French winemaker? If we could make one contribution to the sector it would be to send people away with a better understanding of how cider is made. If they had that knowledge they’d suddenly realise there’s so much more to it. Something that I think the beer industry has done really well.’

Click here for our full Hogan's Range
1621862545process 5