Apples have been the mainstay of Batlow’s economy for around 130 years, providing around 10 per cent of the national crop to Australian markets.
This is never more evident than March through to May as fruit pickers brave the increasingly crisp cool days to help around 50 growers in the district to fill more than 1.6 million cases of apples, predominately Fuji, Granny Smith, Royal Gala, Red Delicious, Braeburn and Pink Lady.
The secret to Batlow’s legendary apples is a unique combination of ideal growing conditions, careful orchard selection, grower experience and a world-class grading and packaging process.
But a delicious divergence from that prolific output is now brewing up quite a storm, becoming quite the centrepiece to the town’s annual end-of-harvest celebrations which spike tourism figures in May.
Lauded as the biggest tourism event in the Snowy Valleys, the annual autumnal Batlow CiderFest is now in its 11th year and the Saturday 20 May event is shaping up to be huge this year as locals celebrate the fruits that continue to fill their economic basket.
Here, in the centre of the little town with the Big Apple, growers, producers, locals and their visitors enjoy some hard-earned downtime after the long months of cultivating, growing, picking and packing, before winter sets in on the Snowy Valleys.
It doesn’t just mark an end to the apple harvest but celebrates the best boutique ciders and seltzers the region – and beyond – has to offer.
CiderFest entices visitors from across NSW, ACT and Victoria, all of them willing to taste and try the prodigious selection on offer which are becoming more about the fruit than the apple with an increasing range of alcoholic and non-alcoholic ciders entering the market using pears, cherries, watermelon, grapes, blueberries and spices such as ginger and cinnamon.
Doug Inwood of 3 Sons Cider – named for his three sons – has travelled from Canberra to take part in CiderFest every year for the past six years.
His award-winning English-style ciders sit alongside brews from those locally produced at The Apple Thief and Crafty Cider, plus Batlow Cider, Batlow Road Cider and further afield such as Daylesford Cider, Darkes Cider, Cedar Creek Cider and Small Acres Cyder.
He takes pride in being one of the few – if not the only cidery in the ACT and surrounds – making traditional English-style ciders by hand using only freshly picked Batlow apples, wild-picked local apples, as well as heritage-style English and French cider apples they grow themselves.
For instance, his pomme – a modern dry cider – is made from a blend of eating apples, generally Kanzi, Granny Smith, Fuji and Gala, as well as a small percentage of heritage cider apples.
But it’s not just about the apples – his perry – an alcoholic cider made using fermented pears was one of the best in class at the 2022 Australian Cider Awards.
In 2018 he picked up two best of class awards in the categories of new world dry cider and traditional dry.
“I don’t do it to win awards,” he said. “I try to make the best quality cider that I can. It’s quality over quantity.
“The awards serve as a good litmus test against my peers. I don’t really care about how the other people go, I just want to know that I am making good quality cider.”
CiderFest marketing and promotion coordinator Anne Hallard said the array of ciders and cold climate wines would be complemented by offerings from Tumut River Brewing Co, Tumbarumba’s Ladbroken Distilling Co and that very retro bar on wheels, Vinbar.
With music ranging from folk to rock to pipe bands on two stages, acrobatic displays, rides for the kids, exclusive orchard tours, market stalls offering boutique ciders, local craft brews, cold climate wines, gourmet food, locally grown produce and tempting homemade treats, this is one family-friendly festival not to be missed.
It’s an atmosphere that sizzles with buskers and street theatre against a backdrop of trees in glorious autumn colours, the aroma of food from around the globe and of course, the sound of fresh cider being poured in clear mountain air stirs the senses.
Festival buses are available to transport visitors to Batlow CiderFest from Tumut and Tumbarumba.
Gates open at 10 am on Saturday 20 May and tickets are available here.