Saturday, 25 September 2021

Pair hope to create a buzz with new BumbleBee cider

THE former landlords of the Catherine Wheel pub in Goring have launched their own brand of cider.

THE former landlords of the Catherine Wheel pub in Goring have launched their own brand of cider.

James Dawe and Tim Schulz, who still live in the village, came up with the idea for BumbleBee last summer while discussing their long-term career plans.

The couple took over the Station Road pub in 2012 and reversed its fortunes, winning a regional award from the Publican’s Morning Advertiser in 2014 and a Best Thames Local award for its food the following year.

It was their first foray into hospitality as Mr Dawe previously had an office job in London while Mr Schulz had been working as a marine biologist.

Following their success, the pair felt ready for a new challenge and decided to start their own business.

They settled on making cider because Mr Dawe grew up in the West Country, where it is tradition.

They will donate a share of their profits to the Bumblebee Conservation Trust as bees are needed to pollinate apple trees but are in decline due to habitat loss.

Mr Schulz, a keen conservationist, said: “We were sitting in the garden having a chat next to this huge lavender bush that was absolutely teeming with bumblebees. We suddenly looked up and I think the idea hit us both at the same time. It’s so perfect because it’s connected to things we’re both passionate about.

“It’s great to be giving something back because bees are such an important part of the process — there wouldn’t be any cider without them.”

The pair are working in partnership with a farm in Somerset where the apples are grown, pressed and left for several months to ferment using the yeast which occurs naturally on their skins.

This makes scrumpy, or “raw” cider, to which they add apple juice to sweeten it and reduce the alcohol content to 4.5 per cent. They started preparing their first batch of bottles a year ago and labelled the 3,000 bottles with a logo designed by Mr Schulz.

The next batch will be twice that size and the one after that will be the equivalent of 100,000 bottles, although some of this will go into kegs.

The couple first served BumbleBee at their wedding in July and then started selling to retailers after returning from their honeymoon.

It is now available at several businesses in the village including the Goring Grocer, Westholme Stores, Pierreponts café and Masoom’s Tandoori as well as the Swan at Streatley.

It is also sold at the Fox and Hounds in Caversham and will soon be available at the Little Angel in Henley, which is to host a tasting party on Friday, October 28.

Mr Dawe and Mr Schulz stay in Somerset to oversee production during the harvest while the rest of their time is taken up marketing the product. They currently deliver the cider themselves in a van but are seeking a distributor to increase their reach.

Mr Dawe said: “The pub was a good way to get our entrepreneurial spirit going but there was never going to be a huge gain from a rented business.

We considered buying our own pub but even that has limitations and we wanted to be as free as possible.

“We went for a fairly low-risk start because we knew we could drink 3,000 bottles eventually if it didn’t go to plan.

“The feedback at the wedding was great but what’s even more rewarding is the repeat orders we’ve had from our stockists.

“Your friends and family are always going to be grateful if you give them a free bottle but we knew we were on to something when people we hadn’t met were asking for more.

“We’re talking some pretty big numbers for the next batches but we never set out to be hobbyists. We want to create a commercially viable product that could get more people into cider.”

Mr Schulz added: “This feels right. We’re really excited about the future and feel about 10 years younger.”

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