On Thursday, 17th of March, Peter Lahr published an article about us in the Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung, our regional newspaper. A rather fitting date to be writing about an Irishman! For the sake of friends, relatives and those lovely customers who don’t speak German, here is a translation of Peter’s article.
On the search for the perfect cider flavour.
Old and new meet directly in Ines and Barry Masterson’s work. On the one hand, it’s impossible to miss. After all, their lovingly renovated half-timbered house from 1777 is right next to the modern new Schefflenz town hall building with its monochrome Monopoly House silhouette. On the other hand, it is unmissable, because the ciders and perrys (pear wines) that the two have been producing in the best artisanal manner for several years now combine centuries-old expertise with new findings from the most diverse cider regions in Europe. The result is as sustainable as it is rich in flavour. Over a cup of original Irish tea, the couple talked about their shared passion and how it all began on an Irish dig.
For it was there that the Mosbach native, who had studied Irish archaeology in Dublin, met the Dublin surveyor, who was creating three-dimensional models of Bronze Age forts as part of a research project. In the meantime, he moved to a geo-information systems company based in Münster. “We wouldn’t have stayed in Dublin anyway” Barry comments on the move from Ireland’s bustling capital to the tranquil village of Schefflenz.
“Beer was always a thing”, Barry comes to talk about the roots of his brewing hobby. In Dublin’s Porterhouse Templebar, not only were 200 types of beer from all over the world available as research objects. It was also here that Barry acquired his first beer brewing kit for the kitchen at home. “Once a month I brewed beer with my best friend. Amazingly, it wasn’t bad at all.” As an IT expert, Barry Masterson built a website about craft beer and went among the bloggers. “We wanted to promote microbreweries”. He also brewed his own beer in North Baden. The range goes from Pale Ale to Stout.
Ten years ago came the turn of the apple. In the “Blättle”, the harvesting rights for a dozen apple trees in Großeicholzheim were advertised. “We just wanted to make our own juice,” the couple describes their initial motivation. But after a year, there was still juice left over, and Barry recalled his beer brewing experience. He put the first 20 litres of juice in a barrel with yeast and tried it after four weeks. “The result was not really my cup of tea,” he describes the first attempt in retrospect. But being a man who likes to experiment, Barry was not discouraged.
In the meantime, he knows that cider needs more time to mature. And that there are several methods of production. The cider he now produces in Schefflenz has little in common with the industrially produced, rather sweet cider he knows from his youth, he reports. That was made for quenching thirst.
It was rather by chance that Barry came across an orchard planted in 1958, where he now cultivates 150 trees on 60 are. In addition to the old trees, including Goldparmänen, Boskop, Jonathan, Cox Orange and Brettacher, he is increasingly focusing on historic English, French and Irish varieties.
Cider or Most? “For me, it’s all the same,” the expert says about the differences and similarities of his favourite drink. Barry Masterson consistently focuses on regionality and sustainability. Initially, sheep grazed on the meadow orchard. Only 100 per cent fresh juice can be used as the raw material. Whether bottle-conditioned or with added carbonation, “everything has to breathe” is the motto. Masterson also loves single-variety ciders. Two years ago he produced 18 different varieties. Some apples come from only one tree! Last year, the “Kertelreiter” processed 2500 litres.
The small brook, the Kertel, which gurgles next to the house, gives its name to the side-line business, which has so far been producing with a black zero. “If you don’t go to bed, the Kertelreiter will come and get you.” With these words the people of Schefflenz used to send their children to bed. A fancy Kertelreiter logo was created by a designer friend.
So far, Mastersons distribute their cider over the internet, by phone or on the street. Because of the Brexit, the English customers dropped out completely. Locally, the Eulenschmiede was the first location where the Kertelreiter cider was available to drink. A Slow Food representative from Heidelberg has also been there, and if there are more nature park markets, Ines and Barry want to test this platform.
Another dream is a cidery with a separate room for tastings. Until then, Barry Masterson is researching old recipes in his pomological library and combining cider with perry pears, Speierling or clary sage. He publishes in specialist journals and is always tinkering with new taste experiences. Cider has already been joined by perry. But more about that later.