Award-winning West Berkshire cider Tutts Clump is a family-run business that now supplies its products to Co-op and Waitrose stores
Motor mechanic Tim Wale has built a family business from his love of cider.
When we arrive at the Tutts Clump Cider buildings, Tim Wale and his daughters Rachel and Lucy are busy shifting boxes, loading up delivery vans and checking on the different vats of cider at various stages of fermentation.
Tim’s journey into the cider business was probably inevitable as he tells me that as a young boy he would be given a small drop to drink by three old brothers who worked on his grandfather’s farm.
“We grew up in a Methodist household and they would always say to me ‘don’t tell your mother’. I was about seven at the time and I knew I liked the taste of it.”
Fast forward a few decades and Tim was running a business as a motor mechanic in some outbuildings near his home.
“We had a small orchard and I thought I would have a go at making cider after seeing a demonstration of apple pressing at a Dorset steam fair in 2006, so I bought a small apple press.”
Tim made 25 litres of cider which seemed to go down well and the rest, as they say, is history.
“It got to the point when what started as a hobby was clearly turning into a business. I never plan anything, I just go with the flow and so I decided to take the plunge.”
The Wales moved the ‘business’ out of their home and into the work sheds and were soon producing more than 7,000 litres of cider a year, which is the threshold at which you are exempt from paying duty.
“I bit the bullet and bought a bigger press and made 30,000 litres and we have continued to grow from there.”
They now produce around 74,000 litres of cider a year.
You will find Tutts Clump ciders and perry in most pubs and farm shops within a 40-mile radius – and if you holiday in Penzance there’s even a pub down there that stocks it.
The business also has a contract with Co-op, which distributes the drink to its stores throughout the country and Waitrose stocks it in some of its stores in West Berkshire.
Autumn is very much apple-pressing season and aside from their own acres of apples, the family buy some in and also take in windfalls and unwanted apples and pears – as long as they’re not rotten – from the public and throw them into the mix.
“We don’t like to see any apples wasted and many people just chuck away bruised or excess apples. We would encourage them to bring them to us so we can turn them into cider – and they get a bottle themselves for every 25kg bag they bring us.”
Tim’s knowledge about all things apples and cider is encyclopaedic. He talks at length about the best apples – Jazz apples are a single variety that last longer than others and make a particularly good cider – about the pressing process and the fermentation, which takes about a year.
“You have to keep the air out, it’s very important that you don’t let the oxygen in.
“If we’re making cider vinegar we just leave the lid off.”
Inevitably, Tutts Clump Cider has diversified into creating other flavours – with added fruit.
“The first one I made was with blackberry which was well received and since then we’ve done strawberry and rhubarb. They’re all popular and again we use proper fruit juice. We’re called Tutts Clump ‘proper’ cider because everything is made from natural ingredients.”
Most of the ciders have local names – starting with Tutts Clump, the village where Tim grew up and where the cider press is based. One of the most recent additions to the range is The Ridgeway, which is four per cent alcohol and has proved to be extremely popular.
Tim is also particularly proud of a more recent addition to the range, called The Legend, in honour of his father. “We always called him ‘the legend’ and I wanted to make something a bit different.”
The Legend is distinguished from the other varieties as it is packaged in a clear bottle rather than the darker brown ones that the other ciders are in.
While the family have no particular plans to come up with more flavours and varieties, it seems they have hit on a winning formula, which keeps the cider-drinking community very happy.
“It got to the point when the cider business overtook the garage business. We’ve had a range of awards for our ciders too – I had been in the motor business for 40 years and never got one award!”
• If you have excess apples or pears that you would like to have pressed at Tutts Clump, contact the Wales on (0118) 974 4649 – you will receive a bottle of cider for every 25kg bag of fruit. To find out more visit www.tuttsclumpcider.co.uk