First published on 11 Dec 2012. Updated on 20 Dec 2012.
Irish born Prendergast has logged nearly 20 years in the booze business, working for Carlton United Breweries and as brand manager for imported beers before starting out on his own. “When I left the big brewers and started Thirsty Thursday Beverages I recognised that the cider market was on the move. The major players had driven a lot of that growth and there was obviously a gap coming into the market for small craft brewers.”
The location for Bilpin Cider was found thanks to a eureka moment of sorts. “I had to travel up and down the Bells Line Road in the Blue Mountains a lot for my previous job and one day I saw a sign for Bilpin that read ‘Home of the Mountain Apple’. I thought Bilpin surely must be a base for a cider company (it wasn’t) and so we took it from there. We also took the slogan and put it on the bottle.”
After only a year in operation Bilpin Cider can be found in just shy of four hundred pubs, restaurants and bottle shops across NSW and Prendergast reckons the key to their success all comes down to the apples. “We are using culinary apples, instead of cider apples. Cider apples can make a particular style of cider that requires a lot of sugar to make a nice residual balance. Bilpin is a beautiful apple growing area for Pink Lady’s and Granny Smiths so that is what we use. I go out and buy the apples from the local farmers, then we crush them and ferment the juice in tanks for five weeks. Using fruit that people eat seems to translate really well to a very drinkable cider without having to add sugar; it’s what cider should taste like; like an apple in a bottle.”
There are big plans afoot for Bilpin - both the area and the cider. “We are buying land and planning to put a cellar door and a cidery there – the first one in NSW. We are hoping to make it a destination, similar to a winery. Bilpin is a very underrated place. People see it as a thoroughfare but we have got a vision for an operation where people can enjoy a bite to eat, get a Bilpin Cider at the cellar door and make a day of it.”
Sign up to our monthly food & drink newsletter