When Moss Side residents gathered in 2010 to discuss plans for a local disused Stagecoach bus depot, few would have believed that the meeting would have sparked an idea that led to the areas very own craft cider being established.
The man who dared to dream was graphic designer Dan Hasler, who believed the location would be a great site on which to establish an orchard. Enthused by his plan to plant apple trees and create cider Dan decided “why wait?”. Seeing Manchester as his orchard he began brewing cider on a tiny scale, using a small 20-litre cider press and apple crusher, which he used to make the first batch of Moss Cider, one sunny September afternoon.
Since then the Moss Cider Project has grown and grown at a rapid pace, thanks to a collaboration with ‘The Beast’ – an industrial apple press – and an extra pair of hands from like-minded cider enthusiast Joe. Dan and Joe’s first year of pressing saw 100 litres of cider and juice produced.
Donations from across the Greater Manchester area make the project possible. Generous Manchurians donate abundant apples from trees in their gardens or the many apple trees around the city, saving them from a wasted fate.
The process from pressing to bottling takes around 5 months and each April donators receive a proportion of their donation back in the form cider or juice.
The cider is made using the traditional rack and cloth process producing a clear, sparkling drink that is dry, fresh and sometimes sharp.
Community is where we started
The Moss Cider Project is more than just another trendy craft brand, with cool graphics and socially conscious ethos. It’s beginning to become something of a community tradition, with Moss Cider’s hands-on pressing and labelling events becoming new community traditions. If you’re based in the North West, look out for the projects pop-up bar, the Gardeners Arms, which according to the Moss Cider blog has it’s share of mobile locals.
“Community is important as it’s where we started and we’re still in an odd kind of transition phase where we’re still a bit of a project moving into a fully fledged business, albeit a quasi co-op, because we’re donor based, and we’re fitting it around day-jobs so it’s still kind of hobby territory”.
This said, there is now scope to start training young local people in juice production and marketing. “We’re hopefully doing this in conjunction with local partners who will help fund the missing bits of equipment we need, primarily a pasteuriser. We’ve often hit the obvious stumbling block when it comes to funding because we make alcohol. This hasn’t stopped some local schools getting involved in tree planting but with the new juice side to our bow, we’ll be able to forge even stronger local links.”
The seeds of change
Community hasn’t always been the first word that jump to mind on the mention of Moss Side. The area’s very name evokes memories of riots, gang warfare and gun-crime that, in the past, helped Moss Side gain notoriety. It’s a different story today, memories still linger from Moss Side’s difficult past, but a certain amount of investment has led to more students and young families seeking more affordable homes compared to other Manchester suburbs.
When a recent Sunday Times article on the project proclaimed “Wasteland cider soothes Manchester’s gangland heart”, it didn’t sit well with Dan, who took to the Moss Cider blog to ask– “Do we really have to still live in the shadow of the area’s past?”
“A big part of what we do promotes the changing face of Moss Side” he wrote. “The diversity of people, the community spirit, the sheer number of local people who work tirelessly on sustainable projects and food production. And who doesn’t love a bit of locally made jerk chicken or fantastic Ethiopian cuisine. Plus, some local shops beat the big names on certain products; so shopping locally is a break from the big four. There’s also an emphasis on regenerating our high street and shops, so Moss Side is attracting new local trade”.
The former bus depot eventually received it’s facelift, opening in Spring 2013, it is now known as Moss Gardens. But its past has not been forgotten, with an old Stagecoach bus being used as a community space. “It’s been converted to have a green-fingered library, kitchen and seating area for meetings. Plus, a local girl is having violin lessons on the bus as she hasn’t got a place to practice at home,” reveals Dan.
Making Manchester a little merrier
Dan couldn’t be happier to see his orchard idea come into fruition, “the council had already donated 13 apple trees and with local help from Heineken’s Royal Brewery in Moss Side, we helped the community plant 25 further cider variety trees. There are even weekly planting events and other opportunities for locals to help. It’s a work in progress but it’s great to hear how the site is being used.”
As Moss Cider grows and its roots sink deeper into the area, the business will no doubt grow stronger. Dan hopes that one day they’ll be in a position to employ local people, but for now the focus is to “plant more trees, make more juice and continue making award-winning cider.”
You can find Moss Cider at the monthly Moss Side Market the first Saturday of every month, pop down and say hi!
Words by Annie Price