Meet Susannah Mansfield, accredited Pommelier and Publican.
When Malus Magazine asked me to write a feature about Britain’s Cider Women I sent the same questions to several of the UK’s leading orchardists, cider makers, advocates, and retailers. With limited space in the magazine I was unable to include all their responses but did not want to waste their fascinating comments, so I have posted them individually on this blog. I cast the interviewees in an imaginary film called ‘Sisterhood of Cider, The Movie’ and I asked them not to be modest in their answers because I was ‘bigging’ them up for feature. Please meet Susannah Mansfield, The Publican.
What Is Your Role In Cider?
I’m the landlady at The Station House and Fram Ferment shop in Durham. Cider is a particular passion of mine. I’m also a cider maker of a tiny Durham based cidery called Elvet Cider, which has only been available commercially since November.
I’ve been involved in CAMRA on advisory groups such as the updated definition, as well as advising local festivals on the cider lists. I’ve written a couple of guides for CAMRA’s Learn and Discover about cider faults.
What Does Your Work Entail?
Tasting events for our customers, training our staff at the pubs to keep the interest in cider going and empower them to know what they’re selling.
What Is Your Favourite Aspect Of Work?
I love changing perceptions. So many people think they know (and dislike) cider but have not been exposed to the best that the UK cider market currently offers. When their whole experience of cider and perry up to that point has been bland and sweet, or worse, badly kept and faulty, it’s a real joy to watch their faces when they try something that’s well made and delicious.
Describe Cider To A Person Who Is Unaware Of It.
How do you even start? It’s not wine, but it’s made like wine but with apples. It’s not beer, but it often sits alongside it. It’s the essence and result of the English seasons, in a glass.
What Does Cider Mean To You?
A damn delicious drink. Also something that is intimately connected with some of the best, most hospitable people I’ve ever met, and the best places I’ve ever spent time. It’s a tradition that seems constantly on the brink of being lost, but like most traditions is changing, looking to both past and future, which for me is very exciting.
Why Should A Person Drink Cider?
Because it’s delicious!
If You Were To Be Nominated For An Award For Your Ceaseless Work For Cider Why Should You Win It?
Before I really got interested, there was very little of the kind of cider that we sell in the North East, and indeed, very little interest in full/fresh juice cider. I’ve definitely converted a fair few Durham drinkers to understand that cider can be something for them to enjoy, and raised awareness among others about the range of quality, flavour, and manufacturing methods that the cider industry encompasses.
Why Did You Choose Cider And Not Wine Or Beer?
I refuse to be pigeonholed. I might know more than most about cider but I’m pretty good on beer too and I love that just as much! Siloing ourselves into drinking one category or another is not a good thing for anyone!
That said, clean, dry perry is the best drink we make in this country and I’ll be accepting no further questions.
If You Have A Favourite Apple What Is It And Why?
Yarlington Mill. It’s such a good all-rounder. It’s got some great body and spiciness without being bitter, but even when fermented to dry it’s got a fruity, clementine juiciness that fools people into thinking it’s sweeter than it is. It’s my go-to crowd pleaser apple, one that I’ve converted a lot of people to cider with. It drinks well on its own, it stands up well with, frankly most food. If I could only ever grow one apple this is what it would be.
Do You Think The UK’s Cider Sector Is In A Better Position Than It Was Before You Started Working In It?
Yes, and I think we have played a small part in that, but there’s still a long way to go. I think there’s more awareness of quality, and the importance of fault reduction.
The work I’ve been involved in with CAMRA is putting more emphasis on ensuring that cider at festivals is presented properly, that we’re buying ciders that are good examples of traditional cidermaking in the UK.
We’ve got an increase in available formats for full/fresh juice ciders- kegs (especially keg conditioned) and 750ml bottles being the obvious examples, both of which are really important, when used appropriately in the right context, for changing perceptions of cider.
What Would You Change About The UK’s Current Cider Sector?
In my wildest dreams I’d ensure that the minimum juice content for cider was raised to something like 85% and that it had to be clearly marked if concentrate was used. I’d ban the marketing of those fruit ciders aiming at the old alcopop market as cider.
I’d remove the tax disincentives for adding fresh fruit, whole spices, etc to flavour cider. There’s nothing wrong with flavouring cider per se – just with the current versions of it!
What Is The Biggest Challenge We Face As Cider Advocates
Keeping going. Cider is unlikely to be something that sells itself – it’s going to always need talking about, people to advise customers, training for staff. We can’t be complacent and assume that we’ve done the job once and that’s as good as it gets.
What Slogan Should Be On Cider T-Shirts?
Drink More Cider