Tricky Cider is run by Matt Gillett, a life long lover of cider and Somerset. Matt grew up in nearby Taunton and after 10 years working as an automotive engineer in Essex, he decided to change direction and move back to his home county.
His passion for fermenting started in the mid 2000’s with 'Genghis Ales' his home brew label, and small batch cider making using fruit from neighbours’ trees. This background led to a micro-brewery installation project with friend Freddie Farnworth in the back garden of the Holman Clavel pub on the Blackdown hills, at that time owned by Tricky founder Steve Watkins. The pair purchased Tricky from Steve in 2018 and Matt is now the sole owner of the business.
Operating out of Higher Willand Farm on the Blackdowns, his aim is to produce and promote high quality traditional farmhouse cider and work to regenerate forgotten orchards. Matt is proud to be part of the tradition of Somerset cider making and the exciting revival of this fabulous natural drink.
The key to his approach lies in the heart of the Somerset levels, an area still home to a goldmine of traditional cider apples:
“Sourcing apples from these orchards and helping maintain them is central to our cider making. Every drop of Tricky Cider is produced from fruit we pick and press ourselves. I’m able to taste the apples before they’re pressed to build a picture of how they can be blended or kept as single varieties. Each basket of fruit is sorted by hand to give a cleaner pick. This approach means that every cider has a unique story, created from the lifecycle of each orchard through Winter pruning, Spring pollination, Summer grazing and Autumn harvest.
An advantage of using other peoples’ orchards is that we have access to a diverse range of fruit. As most apple trees are bi-annual, the varieties available in any given year may change. This means our ciders vary from year to year and new single variety and blended ciders are always being found. Our ciders do not conform to a script, the most important thing is to work with nature, make from what is available and ensure the quality is as high as possible."
Tricky Cider 2004 - 2018
Tricky Cider was founded in 2004 by Steve Watkins and Alistair Brice. With a lifetime of hobby cider making behind them, the pair started Tricky to preserve the art of traditional cider, refining the authentic taste over several years with a perfect blend of local cider apples. Tricky takes its name from nearby Trickey Warren; a flat open area with a reputation as a hard place to shoot rabbits! In 1941 Trickey Warren became home to RAF Culmhead, the first of 3 airfields constructed on the Blackdown Hills to provide air support for Exeter and Bristol and shelter for aircraft from bombing raids. Tricky is aptly named as anyone lost in the back lanes of the Blackdown hills will concur! To find us we recommend typing ‘Tricky Cider’ into Google maps or using what 3 words: most.impulsive.lime.
Thanks to Steve and Al the Tricky name flourished, and today we are taking the business forward on the next stage of its journey.
At Tricky we believe that real craft cider is not getting the recognition it deserves. Our cider is made only made from real cider apples we pick ourselves, never using concentrate and without additives or acids. We open ferment our cider using natural airborne yeasts and backsweeten medium ciders with cane sugar, never artificial sweeteners. All our fruit ciders are made with our own homemade cordials including elderflower from the farm, and rhubarb from our generous rhubarb donors!
Support Local, reduce waste
We want to support local businesses and charities, wherever possible we use local suppliers.
While it is not currently possible to eliminate all plastic from our packaging, (bag in box especially), we aim to reduce the use of plastic wherever possible with alternatives such as PLA and cardboard.
At Tricky we like to have fun, work to sustain the natural environment and bring high quality traditional cider to as many people as possible.
Higher Willand Farm
Tricky is based at Higher WIlland Farm high on the Blackdown hills above Taunton. The farm is famous for its longhorn cattle who, in the summer months can be found roaming nearby national trust woodland. We are based in an old stone cowshed just off the main yard, this building was used for milking cows in the 20th century and is the perfect location for cider storage staying cool in the summer months. We transport the apple juice up to the farm after pressing and ferment onsite using natural yeasts. Our cider is fermented, pasteurised and packaged up on the farm and we welcome visitors for talks and cider tasting.
Many traditional orchards are no longer commercially viable due to their drop in yield and poor tree health. Historically, small villages such as Baltonsborough and nearby Butleigh were surrounded by orchards, with farmers collecting the apples to make cider for the farm and their workers. The above map from 1880 shows the extent of orchard decline over the last 140 years, the green dots are where orchards exist today.
In the mid-20th century, the Showerings cider mill at nearby Shepton Mallet became a hub for landowners who would bring their fruit to press during the Autumn harvest. Today, the prevalence of imported apple juice concentrate in commercial ciders, and a preference from large cider makers to use modern high yield bush style orchards means that many traditional orchards have fallen into decline. Matt believes that It is down to small cider makers to make use of the orchards that still exist, replant trees and maintain them for the future.
While living in Baltonsborough near Glastonbury, Matt noticed the poor state of many old orchards. Commonly, unkept trees become overgrown with Mistletoe and are blown over in the winter storms. Orchards would inevitably be ‘grubbed up’ and the land repurposed, often for building and
Tree pruning and mistletoe removal needs to be kept up every year otherwise hard pruning is required and trees such as the one pictured above may take some time to recover and yeild good fruit.
Netherham Farm - Low Ham
Netherham Farm near Langport in Somerset is one of the most interesting farms we collect fruit from. The farm is steeped in local history, home to the 17th century 'Church in the field', the History hut, and where the roman mosaic which can be seen in Taunton museum was found.
For those interested in the farm their website provides some excellent information as well as more details on the tree pruning and orchard work we have been part of. https://netherhamfarm.wordpress.com
Jamie Curious takes you on his pilgrimage of intrigue and curiosity with
a humorous episodic show. Each episode is dedicated to a different
subject and unearths forgotten facts from the tomes of history. Curious
Characters explores the full spectrum of strange humans, covering hidden
figures, current curious happenings, bizarre and paranormal mysteries
and history’s forgotten heroes.
Apparently, Vlad the Impaler, Joan of Arc and other notable historical figures prefer the authentic taste of Tricky Cider.
Miranda Benzies Art
Miranda Benzies was an artist who lived from 14/02/81 - 05/01/15. Sections of her work are used as the artwork for our labels. Profits from print and book sales go towards a fund setup in her name to help struggling young people using the arts. More information and a portfolio of her work can be found at: www.mirandabenzies.co.uk