Batlow Cider, how ’bout those apples

Batlow in the Snowy Mountains is famous for apples.  Its also home of Batlow Cider, a partnership between the Coombes brothers in Sydney and the Batlow Fruit Co-operative.


Batlow is in the foothills of the Snowy Mountains

Rich and Sam Coombes discovered real cider on visits to their father in London in the early 2000’s.  A few years later Rich was sitting on a grassy hill in North Bondi with a mate.  Back then the Australian cider market was basically Strongbow and Rich was drinking Magners, which had just become available in Australia.  His mate was drinking Coopers Pale Ale which was considered Australian craft.  They got talking about craft beer and began asking themselves, why don’t we have locally made craft cider?  We’ve got great produce here, why are we drinking imported stuff or lolly water, Rich explains.  That prompted an idea, but it wasn’t acted on for a few years.


The cider market was still relatively small and the idea took over Rich.  Always having a desire to do his own thing, he thought “we’ve got to give this a red hot go, so we did”.  Rich quit his job in banking and studied the Australian cider market and apple industry.  The research led to Batlow and they approached the Fruit Co-op for commercial quantities of apples to make cider.  They then started throwing around the idea of going into partnership, and formed a joint venture in August 2010.


“There had always been a desire by the Batlow Fruit Co-op to make cider again after the Mountain Maid cannery closed down in 2000.  It took Rich Coombes and his brother Sam to come up one day.  They had a passion for launching their own cider and the brand they wanted to use was Batlow” John Power of Batlow Fruit Co-op tells me.

After a couple of trials they went into production in September 2011.  “We wanted to make sure the product was perfect before we launched to market, so we took a while to get it to that point.” says Rich.

“We’re using a winemaker because our cider is literally apple champagne, it’s not played with.  Ours is a proper craft cider, and it really is a champagne”, explains John.


“We think how you produce the juice is important”.  Being very careful in designing the process, they can guarantee consistent output and taste.  They grow, hand pick and crush every apple that goes into their cider; a big part of their story and brand proposition using Batlow apples, and they use the best of the best.


John believes the quality of the juice from Batlow is better than anywhere else.   “The apples just taste better.  They’re sweeter and nicer, full flavour”, he tells me.  “The climate in Batlow is ideal for growing the perfect apple.  It’s not just temperature but the swing in temperature from day to night as the fruit is ripening.  If you’ve got nice warm sunny days, and cool nights, then the fruit will ripen to a better quality piece of fruit.  With the cooler nights it colours up so much better.  It’s firmer, higher in sugar, tastes better and it’s crisp.


The other things that are right in Batlow are average rainfall.  It’s quite high, so there is no need to rely on irrigation, the soil is a deep rich organic soil and its too cold for fruit fly.  The things we do have to worry about are mold and black spot.  If it rains and stays cool for a few days then you can get a bit of mold, that’s the thing that we mostly have to treat.” John tells me.

With the lowest orchards at 800 metres and the highest over 1000 metres above sea level, Batlow are typically the last fruit to market every year for Australia.


Chasing the premium cider market, the boys at Batlow Cider have been working hard for the last few years growing the business and protecting it’s brand.  Getting exposure at a number of major events and music festivals in Sydney and Melbourne.  A national distributor has now taken Batlow Cider into Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth, and they’re opening accounts weekly.

There are three products now in keg.  The premium, which is the original cider, the cloudy, and the OPA launched in August, it’s an oak aged pear and apple cider; 30% pear, 70% apple.  Using Victorian grown pears and Batlow apples aged in French oak.  It was to be a limited release, but it will be coming out in bottle and can in November.


Taking the Batlow brand global has always been part of the long term plan and Batlow Cider launched in Hong Kong in May this year,.  With other potential areas of distribution throughout Asia, the plan to become a great Australian brand that is also seen overseas is becoming a reality.  “We’ve still got a lot of work to do domestically” Rich tells me, “but our brand is becoming more renowned, it just keeps growing and growing.”

“At the end of the day we’re making a traditional style of cider and our focus is on our small range and getting them right”, Rich tells me.  And I think they’re doing a pretty good job.  For stockists of Batlow Cider go to

Also check out the apple blossom festival in Batlow on 18 /19 October.

Batlow Cider Fest is on May 15 2015


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