The latest from Atlas

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Cider and Super Powers - A chat with Zeffer Cider's Sam

Zeffer's Sam Townsend
With summer here it's hard not to think of cider. We've been pouring Zeffer cider at Atlas for a wee while now so we thought it was the perfect time to have a Q&A with them. Here's what Zeffer's Cidermaker-in-Chief, Sam Townsend, had to say when we caught up for a chat.

Hi Sam, how are you? What are you up to today?

Hi, currently taking a break from kegging a fresh batch of red apple cider on a hot arvo, Zeffer is based up on the Hibiscus coast in the sunny north of the North Island. My partner Hannah and I live 30 minutes north of here with our two children Maddie and Lottie.

So you decided to turn your wine-making skills to cider back in 2009. What was it about making cider that inspired you in particular?

Hannah and I were backpacking through Europe and trying a lot of unique ciders, we saw how popular the drink was over there and figured there was a clear opportunity to make a premium New Zealand cider with our abundance of great fruit. We wanted Zeffer to be unique, so we decided to make it all from freshly crushed fruit and not add any sugar or artificial flavourings. We started with our crisp apple (which is pouring at Atlas) which is my take on a classic New Zealand style of cider. Crisp, refreshing and clean flavours without too much sweetness. Letting the true apple flavours come through.

What’s a busy day like for you at the cidery? Also can you tell us a bit about the brewing process?

The busiest days for us are in winter when the apples are coming into season, this winter alone we crushed over over 200 tonne of apples. Our German crushing machine can crush up to 10 tonne a day with one person working hard operating it. Summer is pretty mad as well with a lot of kegging, keg cleaning and bottling!

From the apples arriving we turn them into cider in about 6 weeks, we chose a long, slow method of cold fermentation so the cider retains a full flavour. It’s then ideal to condition it over a few weeks until it’s ready to hit the kegs or bottles.

We’ve been known to get along to a few orchards to help with harvest but most of our fruit comes from Nelson and the Hawke's Bay. We are pretty specific with the varieties we choose and have spent a lot time refining our blend to ensure we get the balance we are after for all 6 of our ciders.

What was the inspiration behind your company name?

Zephyr is a sailing term meaning a light breeze. We started Zeffer on my family farm in Matakana which always has a light sea breeze sweeping in. So we decided to change the spelling to make it our own and called it a light breeze in a bottle.

Slack Ma Girdle and Hopped up Pippin sound like interesting ciders. What was the inspiration behind these? Also what does “Slack Ma Girdle” mean?

Slack Ma Girdle is one of the cider apples used to make it (along with 51 others). It was one of the many quirky names of old English styles of cider apples we used for Slack Ma Girdle, when we saw it we thought it would be a great name for our most complex cider. Slack is a big, bold, traditional style and can take Kiwi’s a bit of getting used to. We view it as our marquee cider and our take on a true English West Country style of cider.

We believe in being true to style but we also want to be creative with our ciders. It’s a product that is relatively new to most New Zealanders so it’s our mission to introduce people to new and exciting styles (without all the sugar and just using great New Zealand ingredients).

The inspiration for Hopped Up Pippin came from some great ciders in the United States. Apples and Hops always grow well in similar climates and so we combined a few of our favourite Nelson apple varieties with some of our favourite Nelson hops and turn it into Hopped up Pippin. We are pretty happy with how it turned out.

Are there any other special ciders on the horizon that you’ll be adding to the Zeffer range?

We have just released Zesty Citrus cider! This one uses some of our favourite green apple varieties which we soak for one month with fresh lemon and lime zest from Hawkes Bay. The result is a crisp, refreshing cider with a big citrus hit on the nose and a good citrus finish. It’s a great cider to match with seafood and one of the favourites going down at the cidery at the moment. Great for a hot, Central Otago summer's day.

We serve Zeffer Crisp Apple Cider at Atlas; looking at our menu, what would you food match it with? 

I think the best match would be the whole baked sole, the crisp apple has a great acid balance and cuts through seafood really well. In saying that the steak is always the meal of choice when the Zeffer team is in town.

If you were coming to Atlas for dinner this evening, who would be your ideal dinner companions? 

Dave Grohl, Kelly Slater, Lebron James and my beautiful partner Hannah.

When you’re not sipping on cider… Pilsner, Pale Ale, Porter or IPA? 

Pilsner. We work closely with a lot of great breweries (Tuatara, Liberty, 8-wired, Deep Creek) and so great beer is never far away. As we are moving in to summer it’s hard to go past a Pilsner other than a cider, of course!

What super power would you like to have?

The ability to fly.

If you were stuck on a dessert island and you can take three things what would they be?

My fishing kayak, unlimited supply of Zeffer, unlimited supply of biltong

Describe your ideal day in the North.

Out on a launch near Kawau Island with mates and family catching great snapper, frying up scallops and having a few Zeffers!

How do you have your Atlas steak cooked?

This is an easy one, medium rare. Hannah and I were at Atlas a few years ago (first year of Zeffer) and were told about the Atlas steak so went along and ordered it. It was outstanding. We said at the time it would be an awesome place to get Zeffer on tap and a few years later, we are!