Rising from the flames

Rising from the flames: One year on from the Twisted Cider farm fire 

It is exactly one year since an electrical fire caused devastation at the Twisted Cider HQ, a tragic event that resulted in a huge amount of upheaval at our independent cider bar. Throughout the past decade before June 2020 the Twisted Cider brand had been going from strength to strength, with countless new cider flavours created, successful market events completed and cider farm tours on the go.  

In other words, everything was on the up. Customers across the UK were increasingly enjoying our range of ciders, such as the Twisted Cider Premium No. 5 and Twisted Cider Wild Orchard (all available on our online shop as well as in person). Closer to home we converted our historic cider barn in 2019, providing an even more exciting experience for everybody visiting the cidery. 

But then, just as it looked like the fallout from the first Covid-19 lockdown was beginning to lift at the height of a glorious British summertime, tragedy struck. An electrical fault at the Twisted Cider brewery resulted in a fire that lasted for two and a half hours, destroying equipment, barns and copious amounts of our beloved Twisted Cider. 

We will always be eternally thankful that nobody was hurt during the blaze, and also extend an everlasting gratitude to the Dorset and Wiltshire Fire Service who were instrumental in taming the outbreak. It was still incredibly tough though, and undid several years of hard work at our treasured cider farm. 

This is Twisted Cider though, and we weren’t just going to give up. With sheer determination and the help of our wonderful local community, a temporary accommodation was up and running within days, whilst we were back to fulfilling cider orders within the week. On the one year anniversary of this disastrous event we take a deeper look at the before, the during, and the after… 

What was happening on the Twisted Cider farm before the 8th of June? 

Our Twisted Cider story stretches all the way back to 2007, where we planted the very first apple and pear trees in the picturesque surroundings of Longburton in Dorset. The passion for local South West cider quickly turned into an obsession, and by 2010 Twisted Cider was operating out of our barn and orchards located on Spring Farm. 

Since the beginning Twisted Cider has been supplied to a variety of local Dorset and Somerset pubs and farm shops such as The Cross Keys in Sherborne and Covivial Rabbit in Dorchester. We have always placed special emphasis on the fact that are apples are picked, pressed, fermented and blended all in the same place, simultaneously delivering a uniquely authentic flavour as well as a truly South West cider. Indeed, it is something you can see for yourself in our online shop, with a range of different flavours available. https://www.twistedcider.co.uk/twisted-cider-shop/

And speaking of shops, aside from continuously refining our cider brewing process and creating exciting new flavours, in 2019 we also opened our very own shop on site. Not only did this give visitors to the Twisted Cider farm more of an opportunity to buy our beverages, but it also meant that we could offer even more captivating barn and orchard tours.  

Through a combination of hard work and quality products our lovely independent Dorset cider brand was steadily growing in popularity before tragedy struck late last year, and continues to today through hard work and determination. A key element of this is through continued Twisted Cider appearances at farmers markets and food festivals up and down the country, such as Dorchester Cider Festival and Cheltenham Food & Drink Festival. 

As you can probably tell by now, the Twisted Cider team were keeping extraordinarily busy over the last decade, both at our cider farm and across the country. It all made the tragic fire last June even more gutting, however it is always important to remember that it could have been far worse. 

June 8th 2020: Tragedy strikes at the cidery… 

After a gruelling first lockdown it looked like things were looking up at the beginning of summer 2020, but unfortunately it wouldn’t be plain sailing at the Twisted Cider farm – far from it. Just as the warm afternoon sun beat down on our rolling Dorset cider fields tragedy struck in the form of a fire caused by an electrical fault. 

The fire outbreak started just before three o’clock and ended up raging for two and a half hours before the Dorset and Wiltshire Fire Service managed to subdue it. Luckily, nobody was hurt as we mentioned in the introduction, however the fire still caused a wave of devastation, destroying two barns with a variety of important equipment, stock and machinery. A whole load of Twisted Cider signage and event kit was lost, for instance, as well as the electronics inside the pasteurising equipment. 

This was bad enough, but the fire also ended up destroying many gallons of our various Twisted Cider varieties – a truly heart-breaking waste of our authentic South West cider. Early estimates put the figures at around 5,000 litres worth of cider, in a tragedy that was deeply distressing for both financial reasons and simply out of the sadness to see so much of the passion we put into making quality Dorset cider being put to waste. 

Although most of the stuff destroyed by the fire was practical machinery or produce, we were also unlucky enough to see some original 80s Taunton Cider Company polypins perish in the blaze. It just goes to show how dangerous accidental fires can be, in our case it was deeply destructive, affecting most of the things kept in the two barns. 

A particularly distressing part of all of this is the fact that our newly renovated Twisted Cider shop was also heavily damaged, something we put a lot of effort into creating in the couple of years before. You can head here for more information on the fire itself [embed https://www.somersetlive.co.uk/news/local-news/estimated-5000-litres-cider-lost-4214227], but we’ve had enough of the sad stuff now. Twisted Cider wouldn’t be where it is today if it were not for our capacity to bounce back, and that’s exactly what happened! 

An immediate response and the Twisted Cider willpower to bounce back 

First and foremost we have to thank the extraordinary determined Dorset and Wiltshire Fire Service for their vital work in extinguishing the fire. After all, it could have been a lot worse. It is in times like these where local community really becomes a driving force too, something we found out to our delight after attracting essential help from people and businesses across the local area. 

It only took one day for Twisted Cider to get back up and running in some capacity, only possible because of the crucial contribution of 16x1000l containers from Orchard Park Farm. As a result we managed to rack off 4,000 litres of our iconic Twisted Cider, a move that set the foundations for a rapid bounce back. 

Other notable mentions must go to the local electrician who came down the following morning and rewired our pasteurisers, something that not only got us back up and running, but saved a lot of money that would have had to be spent on new ones. A generous offer from Abbery Friar in Sherbourne to borrow some stainless steel vats was also critical, enabling us to start fulfilling orders again within a few days. 

Sure, Twisted Cider wouldn’t have bounced back so quick without sheer grit and determination on our side, but it would also have been impossible without the help from our local community. Sherborne Football Club, Dorset Food Network, Digby Tap and Oliver’s Cafe all gave a helping hand, whilst the Cow & Apple in Yeovil promoted our cider and raised money for the Dorset and Wiltshire Fire Service the following weekend. In general the support from the general public was overwhelming – we really couldn’t have done it without you! 

Road to recovery: Events at the cider farm since 

After a tough summer of coming to terms with the fire whilst simultaneously working hard to cancel out the damage, Twisted Cider was finally at the stage where things could start looking up again. It didn’t take long before we managed to set up a mobile bar in old licensed premises, a move that meant we could continue being a cider hub for the local community. 

Amazingly, Twisted Cider also managed to keep up with customer demand despite the unique circumstances, a testimony to our hard work, and also the help we received from various places across the southwest. This was vital to the existence of the business of course, however it was also vital in giving us a much-needed confidence boost, and a belief that we could flip the terrible situation on its head, and perhaps even improve on what we had before. 

After a bitterly cold winter spent in temporary accommodation in the Dutch barn under a marquee, we finished a new Twisted Cider building on the 21st of March. This was the first big step in the road to recover, and will enable us to open a new space which is licensed for on and off trade – the cider tasting events will be back! Unfortunately the lasting Covid-19 pandemic continues to place a cap on exactly how we run our cider business, however you can rest assured that as soon as we are allowed to run at full capacity, we most certainly will be. 

Farmers markets and food & drink festivals have always been a vital part of the Twisted Cider ethos, in fact you cannot really get a more authentic community experience anywhere else. In the year since the fire these events (when allowed to happen) had even more significance, and were also a crucial part of the road to recovery. One year on, rising from the ashes of tragedy, the Twisted Cider farm is once again looking in great shape. 

What’s next for the Twisted Cider farm?  

Most of this article has been looking back (and for good reason), but what about looking further forward? It has been a strange year and a half for almost everyone due to Covid-19, and something we are most looking forward too is simply being able to run more cider tasting events and barn tours in our HQ, with a new shop to increase customer experience. Although remember you can always shop for our Twisted Cider online… 

Something else that the pandemic has made much more difficult is going to the various events across the country that we love to partake in. On the agenda going forwards is of course the Sherborne Independent Market that runs on the 3rd Sunday of each month until November. Elsewhere is the Cheltenham Food & Drink Festival taking place over the last weekend of June, a particularly fun event that Twisted Cider has been a part of for years. 

Aside from the events and preparation for our new Twisted Cider HQ we are always committed to creating more incredible cider flavours, especially after the year and a half we have all had. On the first anniversary of the Twisted Cider farm fire why not indulge yourself in a mixed case of Twisted Cider from our online shop and see what all the fuss is about? https://www.twistedcider.co.uk/twisted-cider-shop/

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