efore I begin to explain why I chose to produce, what I believe to be the
only authentic English pear cider available in America, let me make a
confession to you, I love beverages that are fermented from fruits. As you
know beer and ales are fermented from grains. The unique flavor of fruit
fermentation is growing in popularity in America as witnessed by the rising
popularity of hard apple cider, and this pleases me a great deal.
he earliest reference to the use of pears for making a fermented drink
was by Pliny who said that the Falernian variety, being very juicy, was used
for making wine. Palladius, in the 4th century, wrote of pears being used
like apples to make both a drink and a sauce and said that the Romans
preferred wine made from pears to that from apples. He also gave
instruction on how to ferment pear juice and make a cider, then called
he Royal courts of Europe agreed with me that fruit fermentation
yielded a very subtle, rich and desirable flavor,because as I studied the
Royal Book of Spirits with Conrad it was obvious that during Henry's reign,
and the ending of the war between France and England,there was a burst of
"spirited creativity" which resulted in the creation of some very unique fruit
s you know weather and climate affect the "spirit destiny" of any
country and the climate of the Glastonbury region made it ideal for apple
cultivation, while the same English climate was not ideal for grape
cultivation. As our pear cider action adventure story proceeds you will
discover how pear cultivation was always a challenge in England because
pears needs a warm sunny summer for vintage flavor….which is very un-
ecause English pear cultivation was so limited, pear cider, or the hard
cider made from the fermentation of pear juice, was almost completely
non-existent at the beginning of Henry V111's reign. On the other hand pear
cider was very popular at the French court because the French weather
BACK TO THE SPIRITBOOK
Back to our Royal Book of Spirits. Conrad and I were like two kids set free in a toy store…every page was a spirit adventure. The notes on certain pages clearly indicated that celebrations in honor of an ambassador, or emissary from a foreign land were a constant occurrence.
As we examined the Royal Book of Spirits it became apparent that kings were competing with each other for who was most refined and in Europe that meant…" My beverages, art, jewelry, painting and music are more refined than yours". Lord Taunton was constantly sending shipments of English spirits to their ambassadors in foreign courts as gifts for their royal hosts. This was serious "One Up-Manship", and Good Harry loved the competition….whether he was jousting or dinning. This "courtly "competition is well known and can be traced all the way back to the Old
Because England and France were, after centuries of war, at peace with each other, it made perfect sense for the King of France to deliver, through his ambassadors, gifts to Henry, to impress him with his refinement. Given Henry's well known and enormous appetites in food, spirits, music, and art, the King of France knew exactly what to do….send a "subtle" gift to Harry that he could not equal.
Now we can return to Conrad's living room where we are studying the day to day activities of the most powerful beverage merchant in 16th century England, The Royal Spirit Keeper, Lord Taunton. We soon uncovered a very fascinating beverage action adventure story which explains how pear cider, or Perry, became a favorite beverage at the Royal Court….and why Sir Perry's Pear cider is now available in America.
On January 7, 1538 the French ambassador presented Henry with a crystal decanter filled with a new and different cider, one made from pears. Henry loved it and he and his court quickly consume one of the ten kegs that were presented to Lord Taunton for the King.
According to the notes in Lord Taunton's book, the next day Henry called him to a meeting in his chamber and ordered him not to serve the new French pear cider at Court but to make one better. The competition was on. The message was clear…we will beat the French.
Three weeks later, according to notes in our Royal Book of Spirits, there was a meeting in Lord Taunton's office with Sir Geoffrey Perry, one of Henry's favorite suppliers of hard apple cider. When Sir Perry tasted the new beverage he too was impressed and reminded Lord Taunton that they both faced a major problem: pears were not grown in abundance in England, and he wasn't sure if the English variety would be suitable for cider fermentation.
Sir Perry, knowing the purpose of his meeting, brought samples of the existing varieties of English pears: the Barland pear, the Green Horse pear, the Red Horse pear, and the Huff cap. After slicing and tasting the pears it was obvious to both that these desert varieties were not suitable for fermentation. Perry asked Lord Taunton if he could get a reliable supply of French cider pears without embarrassing the king.
NOTE: It is well known that if fruits with high sugar content, like dessert fruits, are used in fermented beverages, an overly sweet and crude flavor will result. This reminds us again of why the English raised special "dry" cider apples for their cider mills. If you use a desert variety pear to make a fermented pear cider the results will be quite mediocre….a special "dry" pear is needed.
Conrad and I noticed certain "purchase and contract" entries in the Lord Taunton's book, and surmised the following: When Lord Taunton finally grasped his pear supply dilemma he used his contacts to locate the source of the pears used by the French in their pear cider. He then devised a plan to buy a large quantity of these French pears from the St. Michele Catholic Monastery in Normandy through a German agent. He also bought 600 French pear trees through a Spanish agent so that the French King wouldn't know the shipments were destined for England. The details of these contracts, and purchases are right there in Lord Taunton's book.
The pears and the pear trees were delivered to Geoffrey Perry's orchards and cider mill and the experimentation began. First the good news: In a short while Lord Taunton, who still had the casks of French pear cider as a reference, was ready to present Henry with the first fermented English pear cider, even though it was made with French pears…and the king loved it. Henry wanted this beverage available at all his meals.
And now for the bad news: Lord Taunton indicates that the King was furious that it would be years before the domestic supply would be available because it takes many years for pear trees to reach maturity….and who could be certain that they would survive the English weather? Being a highly professional and spirited manager Lord Taunton entered into his book the precise recipe and method of fermentation that Geoffrey Perry used…. as an insurance policy…and this information was right in front of us.
Our adventure in search of the Pear Cider Holy Grail continues: Five years later the first shipments of Sir Perry's pear cider was delivered to Lord Taunton, and it pleased the king so greatly that he named his new pear cider a "Perry" in honor of Sir Geoffrey Perry. (PAUSE: This was obviously an example of the King's sense of humor and skill with words…because pear cider was already called…pirrie from the Saxon word pirige meaning a Pear) "How pleased was the king? Pleased enough to commission a portrait, painted by Hoblein the Younger, of Sir Perry holding a goblet of his famous pear cider. But our pear cider thriller is not yet complete….
A MAN NEEDS A MOUNTAIN TO CLIMB OR A PEAR CIDER
Every man needs a challenge, and as Conrad and I were ruminating on Sir Geoffrey's pear cider adventure I suggested that this would be a good time to recreate their original formula, and Conrad looked at me and said…"Aren't you too old to climb Mt. Everest?" Making a vintage English Perry at the quality level and quantities we would need for North America would appear to be impossible in England….and the fires of perry began to burnin my loins…as our spirited adventure continues…..As you know during Henry VIII's reign the King of Spain was sponsoring exploration of the New World…for gold and God's Glory, meaning the Catholic Church's glory. In just a few decades the Spanish had colonized South America, Mexico and California and that meant monasteries and
missions were built to convert the pagan natives. When these pioneering monks came to California in the last quarter of the 16th century they brought with them their genius at agriculture.
While kings and countries were in constant warfare, the Catholic monasteries of Europe were centers of learning, healing arts, and creatorsof modern agriculture. They were a holy network and they shared what they learned with each other….without regard to politics or borders. In a world that was mostly illiterate, monasteries were able to share well documented accounts of their advancement in agriculture.
Why is California the Gardenof Eden of America? Because it has the right climate and most importantly, Spanish monks (four hundred years ago)began to cultivate exactly the right plants and crops which they selected from their network of monasteries all over Europe…. to take advantage of the California climate and growing conditions…from walnuts, to grapes, vegetables, apples, and pears….they sent back to Europe the native plants that would revolutionize European agriculture… potato, beans, corn, squash, oranges, and melons.
Back to the present….as we approach the thrilling climax of this potential Academy Award winning pear cider thriller…I am reminded of a beverage trade show I attended two years ago in Los Angles. As I was walking around looking at all of the exhibits I came upon a very small booth for a California fruit orchard that produced very exotic fruit juices, after I spoke to the president of the company and took his business card….I moved on, not realizing at the time……
So here I am again in Conrad's living room deeply immersed in the Sir Perry's pear cider action adventure story, when I realize that the key to this courtly beverage is obtaining the juice from the "dry" French Cider Pear that migrated to England…which is a very rare commodity…not even available in England today…..and a light goes on in my brain…...and I lookup at Conrad…and say…
"Two years ago I met this guy who has an orchard in California and he told me that he only made juices from very exotic fruit…like the French pear, which has a very dry flavor, and he then tells me that this pear was introduced into California by Spanish monks in the 16 the century…and I say…...thanks for the story…and think… so what?…and move on". Right then and there I called my office in California and asked our man Victor Garcia to see if he could find, in my card file, the phone number of the California orchard that grew exotic fruit. The next day Victor called me back with the phone number and I immediately called Chester Conklin, the owner of the orchard and made an appointment to visit as soon as I got back to the states..
Then Conrad had his own perry light bulb go off in his head…."Didn't your friend David Cortz just buy a cider mill…why not work with him and see if he can recreate Sir Geoffrey's fermentation process?"
Arriving back in California I arranged a meeting so that Chester Conklin and David Cortz and I could figure out how to bring Sir Geoffrey's formula into the modern world….and so the experimentation began.
The challenge we were facing was preserving the extremely subtle and refined flavor and aroma of perry, which can be easily destroyed by the "normal" modern practice of adding potassium sorbate, which is a preservative. In my opinion this addition thickens the tongue, distorts the palette and masks the aroma of vintage fermented fruit juices, and Henry VIII's kingly palette would never approve.
According to my records, over a period of eleven months we made twenty seven
different experimental batches and I was still not satisfied with the flavor, bouquet, tongue and aroma of our American version of Sir Perry. What could be missing? We had run out of options. After several pints of cider we agreed to abandon our dream of making a great cider in California and to return to Somerset, England, where our odyssey had begun; after all, this has long been a magical place for cider making and maybe it will help Sir Perry to go back to its roots.
There can be no doubt how important it was to make Sir Perry in the land of its birth. Our first batch would have pleased even Lord Taunton. We put the next batches in cans and kegs and sent it to Canada where it quickly became that country’s number two selling cider and the first pear cider actually made from fermented pear juice.
Flush with our success in Canada, we decided to head back to California and the US with our cherished Sir Perry pear cider. Sir Perry could now rest in peace.