D&S column: hailing the success of a North Yorkshire cider venture

The quality of our local food and drink producers is a source of real pride for me.

Many of my MP colleagues are very envious that here in the Richmond constituency we make such a wide range of incredible local products, from internationally-recognised brands like Wensleydale Cheese down to small but renowned micro-producers of everything from beer and gin to honey.

Recently, I visited one of our smaller producers who has spent nine years carving out a niche for Yorkshire cider.

Kingsley Ash set up Thornborough Cider in the village of that name near West Tanfield in 2010 and has been producing small batches of cider from local apples for six years.

He’s had great success, most notably in 2017 when Thornborough was awarded a silver medal in the 12th Annual Great Lakes International Cider and Perry competition held in the USA facing competition from the finest producers of fermented apple and pear beverages across the world.

During my tour of Kingsley’s cider barn, I discovered how the cider is hand-pressed each autumn on a traditional rack and cloth cider press only using selected Yorkshire apples.

It is then left to ferment with minimal intervention through the long Yorkshire winter before being bottled-conditioned in spring. The cider contains a blend of more than 50 varieties of apple with amazing names like Pignose Pippin, Kingston Black and Howgate Wonder and, unlike most ciders, it is made without sulphites, is unpasteurised and unfiltered.

All the apples come from Yorkshire and more and more from Kingsley’s orchard just outside the village. First planted in 2016 with 240 trees, the orchard is growing and I had the honour of planting one new tree.

Thornborough Cider is unlike any of the big brand commercial ciders you might be familiar with, many of which are made with less than 50 per cent apple juice (the minimum percentage to be called a cider is 35 per cent). Light, dry, slightly sparkling and made from 100 per cent apple juice, it has been called Yorkshire Prosecco.

Kingsley is going to grow his production as his orchard comes to full fruition. He will also be continuing to source local apples from nearby suppliers, many of whom give their surplus fruit to Kingsley in exchange for the finished product.

As his output grows he will be looking to find new outlets to sell the cider from. At present, it is available in local pubs like the Bruce Arms at West Tanfield, restaurants, and retail outlets such as Lewis and Cooper in Northallerton.

I was very impressed with Kingsley’s passion for his cider and his plans for the future. The craft cider market, like the craft beer market, is growing rapidly and Kingsley is set fair to take advantage of that enthusiasm for locally sourced and produced drinks.

Among the awards collected by Thornborough Cider in its short history is from the Flavours of Herriot Country Awards in 2012. Entries for the 2019 awards opened this week.

Held at Tennants Garden Rooms in December, it is a great way of recognising the wonderful food and drink we produce and serve in this part of Yorkshire. Having attended the awards in the past I can thoroughly recommend the occasion – it’s a real celebration of the finest Yorkshire fare.