My name is Gabe Cook and I hail from Dymock, a small, historic village on the Gloucestershire/Herefordshire border, right in the heart of Ciderland. As well as being home to the eponymous cider apple, Dymock is famous for the wild daffodils (Narcissus Pseudonarcissus) that form a golden carpet across pockets of uncultivated land, such as orchards, every March; and for the Dymock Poets, a band of Gerogian poets that congregated around the village just prior to WWI. Among them were literary greats such as Rupert Brooke and Robert Frost.
A love of nature, landscape, map reading and colouring in led to a Geography degree at Leeds University, but I was called back to the ‘Shire by the lure of something pure and simple: cider. Having first encountered this great drink at the age of 10 – serruptitiously quaffing a flagon of Old Rosie bought for my elder brothers as a Christmas present one year – Woodpecker became my tipple of choice as a teenager before graduating onto the plethora of Westons’ products.
With my thirst for all things cider needing to be quenched, I sought out a Herefordshire craft producer to introduce me to the true farmhouse style. One sunny day I entered the cider cellar at Broome Farm, home of the Ross-on-Wye Cider and Perry Co, and everything changed. I enjoyed the people, the landscape and the culture so much (not to mention the cracking cider & perry) that I ended up living and working on the farm for the best part of a year, residing in a shed in the garden. No, really. At Broome Farm, I not only learnt how to make cider, but I became imbued with a passion for the heritage, culture and traditions of this drink which is so deeply rooted in the region I was born and brought up in.
I started to make my own cider & perry from trees on my Granny’s farm in Dymock, as well as using fruit from other local farms which I know my forebears had picked a hundred years before. I loved the connection to my heritage provided by grubbing about in old orchards on crisp, autumnal days and thoroughly enjoyed the satisfying taste of my own creation. Cider, I now knew, was the path for me and through an MA in Sustainable Development Advocacy I gained a placement with the industry body, the National Association of Cider Makers (NACM). I topped this off by focussing my thesis on the role of the Herefordshire Cider Industry and its potential as a lure for tourism.
Having now met a number of folk within the UK cider industry, Westons Cider kindly knocked on the door and offered me the opportunity to be their Assistant Cider Maker. A whirlwind of an experience, but immensely satisfying, I stayed for 2 years and learnt how to make cider on the big scale. By this point, I yearned for opportunities to advocate cider, getting involved with groups such as The Three Counties Cider and Perry Association and the Big Apple Association. So when HEINEKEN UK (HP Bulmer Ltd), asked if I would like to be their Cider Communications Manager, I jumped at the chance. Yes, I got paid for talking about cider, and I did so, very happily, for 3 years. I even managed to present a bottle of cider to HM Queen Elizabeth II as part of her Diamond Jubilee tour in 2012.
I then took a slightly different tack. New Zealand always held a fascination for me (amazing Geography), and I had a long held ambition to live and work there. So I gave it a crack and ending up living there for nearly 3 years. I spent most of my time in the Moutere, a fertile and creative area of rolling hills near sunny Nelson. Whilst there, I expanded my knowledge of fermented beverages by not only working for a craft cider maker, Peckham’s, but latterly also working for the award winning Waimea Estates winery. I also worked as a Travel Agent in Wellington. But that’s a different story….
But, once again, The Shire has called and I have returned back to the cidery bosom. By day I am the Communications Officer for the NACM, and by night (and…er…sometimes in the afternoons and weekends) I am The Ciderologist. It’s time to bring cider to the masses. Come and join me for the ride!