20 April 2022

Cider the apple of Batlow's eye as industry interest ripens

| Edwina Mason
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Andrew Purcell

The Apple Thief founder, Batlow lad Andrew Purcell, has brought his family back to Batlow to oversee the construction of a new brewery. Photo: The Apple Thief.

Excitement is bubbling over in Batlow – the apple capital of the south – as a whole host of activity is about to bring bucketloads of visitors to the town.

The past two years has thrown its worst at the mountain town, with Black Summer bushfires and COVID stripping it of tourists, but Australia’s love affair with cider beverages has had a refreshing and awakening effect that will pay dividends next month.

Amid a backdrop of a $3.5 million cider house development, which marks a return to local production for The Apple Thief and a return to the district of the brewery’s founder Dave Purcell, the town is practically fizzing over with news the biggest and best cider producers in the world are headed their way next month.

The Australian cider industry’s annual information exchange and networking conference, AusCider 2022, will be held in Batlow on 19 to 20 May.

Batlow instigated and hosted the first seven conferences from 2012 to 2018 and this event marks a return to the town where it all began. The 2020 and 2021 conferences were postponed while the 2022 conference was moved from Western Australia back to Batlow due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

READ ALSO Batlow farmer reshapes his apple-growing future

To be held at the town’s Literary Institute and hosted by industry body Cider Australia, the conference connects cider producers, fruit growers, researchers, suppliers and others in the cider community from Australia and overseas.

The twice-postponed conference will focus on how craft cideries can scale up with integrity at a time when fruit-based ciders – owing to their innovative flavors, natural ingredients, and less alcoholic content – are anticipated to witness the highest growth rate globally.

“After such a long hiatus, we can’t wait to bring everyone together in the place where the conference was founded 10 years ago,” said Warwick Billings, President of Cider Australia

The conference segues into Batlow’s annual CiderFest on Saturday 21 May, a bustling celebration of craft cider set among a blaze of autumn colours.

Chair of the Batlow CiderFest Committee Richard Breward said the community is gearing up to welcome thousands of people to Batlow for the CiderFest and Bushfire Recovery Sunday the following day.

“Confirmation that the conference will be held in Batlow is really the icing on the cake,” he said.


Thousands of people are expected to descend on Batlow in May with the annual Ciderfest one of the most popular events on the annual town calendar. Photo: Tourism NSW.

From humble beginnings in 2012, the award-winning festival now sees thousands of cider-lovers from all over Australia descend on the town.

Accompanied by cider workshops and unique orchard tours, CiderFest is officially celebrated with a street party like no other.

Pioneer Street in the historic town becomes a bustling hub of food and drink stalls, live entertainment and the notorious “Apple Tarts”.

Also worth toasting is the planned new Apple Thief cidery which will be using 100 per cent Batlow apples, and includes a manufacturing and distribution centre, providing new employment opportunities.

During the development, a new specialist cider variety apple organic orchard is expected to be established on site, as well as a hub offering space for community and private events.

This is all thanks to Dave Purcell, who said he was practically born under an apple tree; growing up on the family farm in Batlow where his dad first planted an orchard of stone fruits and apple trees.

Dave’s first dive into cider used fruit from his family’s own orchards.

READ ALSO Bega gardener helps cultivate new seed savers group in Snowy Monaro

After a visit home to Batlow, he delivered a uteload of apples to a winemaker and soon the first batch of Pink Lady apple cider was created.

His ciders proved so popular he was soon buying in fruit from friends and family, supporting local growers throughout the Batlow region.

A decade on, he and his family decided to move operations from the Southern Highlands back to Batlow late in 2021.

For Dave, coming home is not just a symbolic show of unity with the community as it rebuilds.

“I believe that bringing the Apple Thief back to Batlow will help inspire others to invest in the Snowy Valleys region and help to bring back the visitors our community needs,” he said.

Dave wants to build demand for accommodation and food experiences, making Batlow a “foodie” destination.

He’s hoping to galvanize support for major projects such as a local rail trail, similar to projects that have energised and engaged other rural communities across Australia.

Construction begins shortly on the new cidery for the Apple Thief .

Click on the link for more information on Ciderfest.

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