This cider house rules

Sophie Rishworth speaks with general manager of Gisborne success story Harvest Cidery, Hamish Jackson.

Sophie Rishworth speaks with general manager of Gisborne success story Harvest Cidery, Hamish Jackson.

NUMBER ONE IN NZ: Harvest Cidery plant general manager Hamish Jackson on the production line for its popular Scrumpy. Picture by Paul Rickard
TRIED AND TRUE: Braeburn (pictured) and Granny Smith remain the apples of choice in Harvest’s style of cider.
HARVEST FIRST: Brian and Irene Shanks with a bottle from the very first batch of cider made from the Bola fruit. They loosely borrowed the “H” from Harrods, the well-known department store in London, for the “H” in Harvest, and hoped like anything the London store would cause a fuss and get them some free publicity. They didn’t but it didn’t matter. Scrumpy cider is the number one brand in New Zealand. Picture by Liam Clayton

There’s a saying around Harvest Cidery that has been there since the days of founder Brian Shanks.

“It’s better to beg for forgiveness than to ask for permission.”

It’s about taking chances and shows an entrepreneurship mentality.

Brian made his first batch of cider — 5000 litres — in 1989.

It took more than a year to sell.

Today, Harvest Cidery produces 19,000 litres by lunchtime. This year it will make three million litres of cider, and production in 2017 is set to increase between 2 and 5 percent.

The ownership structure of Harvest Cidery has changed over the last five years. It is now owned by AB InBev — the world’s largest brewer.

Corporate ownership aside, Harvest Cidery on Customhouse Street is still a facility run by smart local people, doing great things.

The cellar door is open for free tastings between 9am and 4pm from Monday to Friday, where cellar door manager Teresa Pulman is always happy to help.

Hamish Jackson has been general manager of the plant since 2012. He has also just been re-elected as the chairman of the NZ Fruit Wine and Cider Association for his third term.

A lot of the growth at Harvest Cidery has been driven by the fruit-flavoured ciders, introduced about three years ago.

Weather plays an important role. Sales of cider rise and fall with the temperature, with most people enjoying a crisp, clear one on hot days.

Hamish loves his job. He feels like he is working for a New Zealand and Gisborne icon.

“It’s a great success story for Gisborne and New Zealand. Cider is huge,” he says.

He believes the popularity of the drink is down to its light, fresh feel.

Eight years ago, Harvest Cidery had 80 percent of the cider market. Today it has 19 percent. What that shows is how the cider market has boomed since 2008.

Even though Harvest’s market share dropped to over a quarter of what it used to be, it is actually doing better as demand has meant it produces and sells millions more litres. Scrumpy is the number one brand in New Zealand, beating out big boys Lion and DB, something the locals have always known.

Cider is the perfect drink. It gets invited to all the parties, transcending seamlessly between black tie events on the Auckland art gallery scene to backyard barbecues in Gizzy.

Gluten-free

It is gluten-free, and appropriate for vegans as no animal products are used. Men and women, young and old, enjoy it. It is reasonably priced but of high quality.

“It practically sells itself,” says Hamish.

The company is, however, future-proofing itself.

By the end of 2017, the Harvest Cidery's production line will be almost completely automated, without costing a job.

“It will just be easier for everyone involved.”

In the business world, Harvest Cidery is a relatively small company.

There are 10 full time staff and two casuals, including an in-house accountant and cider-makers Simon Henderson and Sarah Homer, both wine-makers by trade.

They use Braeburn and Granny Smith apples — the varieties used after Cyclone Bola.

There are specific cider apples you can use but Hamish says Braeburn and Granny Smith are tried and true varieties for Harvest’s styles of cider, and offer light, sweet flavours that are easier to consume.

The cidery has the capacity to make 4.2 million litres a year.

Bubbles are added by carbon dioxide injected into the bottles and a new carbonator has increased efficiency of that process by 30 percent.

The “new” carbonator was actually one that had been sitting around for years. Harvest engineer Jason Hutton stripped it back, rebuilt it, and plugged it in. So now instead of it taking 15 minutes to carbonate 100 cases, it takes 10 minutes.

This means they could easily bottle 25,000 litres a day.

No exports either – it is all consumed nationally.

It’s on tap at Smash Palace and the Bushmere Arms. Other local supporters include Gisborne Tatapouri Sports Fishing Club, the Jolly Stockman, Gisborne Wine Centre, The Vines and Poverty Bay and Gisborne Park golf clubs.

The New Zealand dollar is still too high to compete in the export industry but they have been keeping an eye on markets like South Africa, China and Hong Kong.

Harvest Cidery also bottles and sometimes produces for other craft beverage companies in New Zealand.

They bottle the beer for Sunshine Brewery located just down the road from the cidery.

Harvest also produces and bottles the craft cider Crooked for a company in Wellington, and developed the alcoholic ginger beer for Ranga, which includes cider for the alcoholic component.

They also bottle for Edgebrook cider. The cider is trucked from Hawke’s Bay in a tanker, bottled at Harvest Cidery, then trucked back.

Harvest makes 6000 litres of cider for the artist Billy Apple, who sells it in art galleries in Auckland.

That’s the other beauty of this product, says Hamish.

“We can turn on a dime here because we are a smaller operation. A bigger plant can’t change quickly like we can.”

As the interview concludes, Hamish is off to plan for the New Year’s production run.

That’s another good thing about this job, he says. The cider is made, bottled and distributed before Christmas and New Year, so the staff get a break over the holidays.

Probably drinking cider and talking cider though…

There’s a saying around Harvest Cidery that has been there since the days of founder Brian Shanks.

“It’s better to beg for forgiveness than to ask for permission.”

It’s about taking chances and shows an entrepreneurship mentality.

Brian made his first batch of cider — 5000 litres — in 1989.

It took more than a year to sell.

Today, Harvest Cidery produces 19,000 litres by lunchtime. This year it will make three million litres of cider, and production in 2017 is set to increase between 2 and 5 percent.

The ownership structure of Harvest Cidery has changed over the last five years. It is now owned by AB InBev — the world’s largest brewer.

Corporate ownership aside, Harvest Cidery on Customhouse Street is still a facility run by smart local people, doing great things.

The cellar door is open for free tastings between 9am and 4pm from Monday to Friday, where cellar door manager Teresa Pulman is always happy to help.

Hamish Jackson has been general manager of the plant since 2012. He has also just been re-elected as the chairman of the NZ Fruit Wine and Cider Association for his third term.

A lot of the growth at Harvest Cidery has been driven by the fruit-flavoured ciders, introduced about three years ago.

Weather plays an important role. Sales of cider rise and fall with the temperature, with most people enjoying a crisp, clear one on hot days.

Hamish loves his job. He feels like he is working for a New Zealand and Gisborne icon.

“It’s a great success story for Gisborne and New Zealand. Cider is huge,” he says.

He believes the popularity of the drink is down to its light, fresh feel.

Eight years ago, Harvest Cidery had 80 percent of the cider market. Today it has 19 percent. What that shows is how the cider market has boomed since 2008.

Even though Harvest’s market share dropped to over a quarter of what it used to be, it is actually doing better as demand has meant it produces and sells millions more litres. Scrumpy is the number one brand in New Zealand, beating out big boys Lion and DB, something the locals have always known.

Cider is the perfect drink. It gets invited to all the parties, transcending seamlessly between black tie events on the Auckland art gallery scene to backyard barbecues in Gizzy.

Gluten-free

It is gluten-free, and appropriate for vegans as no animal products are used. Men and women, young and old, enjoy it. It is reasonably priced but of high quality.

“It practically sells itself,” says Hamish.

The company is, however, future-proofing itself.

By the end of 2017, the Harvest Cidery's production line will be almost completely automated, without costing a job.

“It will just be easier for everyone involved.”

In the business world, Harvest Cidery is a relatively small company.

There are 10 full time staff and two casuals, including an in-house accountant and cider-makers Simon Henderson and Sarah Homer, both wine-makers by trade.

They use Braeburn and Granny Smith apples — the varieties used after Cyclone Bola.

There are specific cider apples you can use but Hamish says Braeburn and Granny Smith are tried and true varieties for Harvest’s styles of cider, and offer light, sweet flavours that are easier to consume.

The cidery has the capacity to make 4.2 million litres a year.

Bubbles are added by carbon dioxide injected into the bottles and a new carbonator has increased efficiency of that process by 30 percent.

The “new” carbonator was actually one that had been sitting around for years. Harvest engineer Jason Hutton stripped it back, rebuilt it, and plugged it in. So now instead of it taking 15 minutes to carbonate 100 cases, it takes 10 minutes.

This means they could easily bottle 25,000 litres a day.

No exports either – it is all consumed nationally.

It’s on tap at Smash Palace and the Bushmere Arms. Other local supporters include Gisborne Tatapouri Sports Fishing Club, the Jolly Stockman, Gisborne Wine Centre, The Vines and Poverty Bay and Gisborne Park golf clubs.

The New Zealand dollar is still too high to compete in the export industry but they have been keeping an eye on markets like South Africa, China and Hong Kong.

Harvest Cidery also bottles and sometimes produces for other craft beverage companies in New Zealand.

They bottle the beer for Sunshine Brewery located just down the road from the cidery.

Harvest also produces and bottles the craft cider Crooked for a company in Wellington, and developed the alcoholic ginger beer for Ranga, which includes cider for the alcoholic component.

They also bottle for Edgebrook cider. The cider is trucked from Hawke’s Bay in a tanker, bottled at Harvest Cidery, then trucked back.

Harvest makes 6000 litres of cider for the artist Billy Apple, who sells it in art galleries in Auckland.

That’s the other beauty of this product, says Hamish.

“We can turn on a dime here because we are a smaller operation. A bigger plant can’t change quickly like we can.”

As the interview concludes, Hamish is off to plan for the New Year’s production run.

That’s another good thing about this job, he says. The cider is made, bottled and distributed before Christmas and New Year, so the staff get a break over the holidays.

Probably drinking cider and talking cider though…

In March of 1988, the Gisborne region was battered by Cyclone Bola.

Brian Shanks owned an apple orchard at the time and every order was cancelled. The New Zealand Apple and Pear Marketing Board would not accept any bruised fruit.

Not one to give up lightly, Mr Shanks put on his thinking cap and made some apple juice, then 5000 litres of hard cider from the Bola fruit. He had no idea how popular the cider would become.

“Back when you are that age, you just do it. We thought we were bulletproof.

“We didn’t look back. If you do, you get frightened and stop . . . so you just keep going.”

And from that adversity, the company Harvest Cider was born.

Together with wife Irene, they visited 56 cider plants in England to gain knowledge and brought it home to Gisborne.

In the early 90s, they also began a joint venture with the Wi Pere Trust.

In 1991, Brian came up with Scrumpy cider and it went huge.

Even today it has a cult-like following, with very little marketing needed for “the cider that sells itself”.

It gives consumers more bang for their buck, with a bottle of Scrumpy equivalent to a bottle of wine.

And it won gold in London at the International Cider Awards five years ago.

Mr Shanks took his alchemy of cider to America, where he now lives with his wife in the state of Virginia. They created Bold Rock cider — the largest independently-owned cider business in the USA.

It is ranked sixth in the US cider market and is distributed in eight states.

“It’s on tap in 3000 bars across those states and we are rapidly approaching the million cases mark a year. We have opened a second cidery now in Ashville in North Carolina.”

Bold Rock hard cider also operates four of its own retail outlets and tap rooms.

The Shanks are back in Gisborne for summer to spend time with family and catch up with friends.

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