Here’s an interesting question for you. Do you know which county produces the largest amount of perry in the UK?
Herefordshire? Gloucestershire perhaps? Somerset – given that’s where Babycham is based?
No, no, and no. You’re all wrong. And I’ve been wrong before, too. It is, in fact, Merseyside. Because Merseyside is (or at least was before the brand was sold to Accolade wines, and I believe still is) where Lambrini is made. And with a whopping 53% of the UK perry market and sales of 24,000,000 bottles a year, Lambrini is by miles the biggest selling perry in the country, and (I imagine) the world.
There is doubtless a fascinating article to be written about Lambrini and its relationship to perry more broadly, but today I mention it simply to tee up my native Merseyside’s credentials as the world’s premier (by volume) perry region — and yes, to wind up all those of you who are (probably quite rightly) gnashing your teeth at the contents of the last two paragraphs.
However, just as Herefordshire is home to both the biggest cider brands as well as to many small but qualitatively magnificent producers, so Merseyside boasts both ends of the spectrum when it comes to perry, and today I wish to introduce the latter, in the form of Brennan’s. (Lambrini haven’t responded to our spotlight series yet, but I live in hope).
I have been a huge fan of Brennan’s since I first visited them a few years ago. They are some of the friendliest folk in the cider scene, making absolutely fantastic drinks from their iconically-located cidery on an army camp in north Merseyside. There can’t be many cideries in the UK that involve passing through a military checkpoint.
As of 2020 the Brennan brothers have started producing perry too, and a taste of it at last year’s Ross on Wye Festival sits very happily in my memory. So without further ado, let’s meet Lambrini’s local rival.
CR: Introduce yourself and your company.
Brennan’s: We are Brennan’s Cider, three brothers who make cider and perry from donated fruit. We started making cider in a garage in 2015 and have since then moved into a disused farm building on an army camp in Hightown, Merseyside.
CR: How did you come to start making perry?
Brennan’s: We started making perry in 2020 with our first batch of “Woodstock” Perry. This is a perry made from Huffcap Perry Pears and Conference Pears. Prior to this we put the pears we obtained into our base cider, Merseycider, and produced a blend using apples and pears called Old Chapel, which sold well. We got more pears the following year and then decided to make perry alongside our cider output.
CR: Tell us about where you are. Its connection to perry and pear trees. The landscape (perhaps even the terroir!) and any perry culture (or lack thereof).
Brennan’s: We are based in a disused farm on an army camp. There are plenty of apple trees growing wild on the camp that we have access to, but no pears. Pears began to get donated from people’s gardens which we blended in with the apples to produce Old Chapel. Then, by chance, we located a pear tree in a local care home car park, we got permission to harvest it and later discovered the pears were Huffcap Perry Pears, the care home car park used to be in the grounds of a demolished hospital and the tree was lucky to survive the demolition and new builds surrounding it, not much terroir to speak of. We then gained access to a private orchard in Cheshire where the owner had planted six Huffcap Perry Pear trees and was happy to allow us access, hence, with more fruit available to us we could make perry. The orchard is on lush grass with a clay soil.
CR: Tell us about some of the pear varieties you work with. How they are to grow and work with and the different flavours they bring? Tell us about any of your favourites.
Brennan’s: We only work with Huffcap Perry Pears and Conference Pears. We are happy with the Huffcaps because they allowed us to break into perry making and the Conference Pears to blend with the apples and act as a bridge into the world of perry making.
CR: And about the sort of perry you make? Your methods of making it as well as the styles you make.
Brennan’s: We have only made one batch of perry, we used the same principles as cider making, 100% juice, cultured wine yeast added and bottled conditioned. This produced a clear, sparkling perry that we were very pleased with as a first effort.
CR: What are the challenges you find in working with perry? Making, growing and selling?
Brennan’s: The only challenges we have found are in the selling, everyone that has tried it has liked it but would prefer it to be available in 500ml bottles not the 750ml we put it in.
CR: What is it that inspires you about perry? What do you love about it, both as a maker and a drinker?
Brennan’s: We were inspired by all the excellent perries that are available, unfortunately for us we did not have access to Perry Pears until recently. We are really pleased to have produced our first perry and love the lightness of the perry, not only its colour, but the mouthfeel and bubbles. We hope we will be able to improve and develop our perry going forward.
CR: And what is your greatest frustration around perry?
Brennan’s: Our greatest frustration was not having access to pears to be able to make it!
CR: Your perfect perry and food pairing – and/or the time you most like to drink perry?
Brennan’s: Perfect food pairing would be either a light cheeseboard with spicy meats or a creamy pasta dish. Perfect time for drinking perry, a sunny summer afternoon or evening.
CR: What would you most want to tell a new drinker about perry to convince them to try it?
Brennan’s: “You will love this!”
CR: And, finally, what is your all-time favourite of your own perries … and your all-time favourite from another producer?
Brennan’s: Our all-time favourite of our own perries is Woodstock, mainly because it’s the only one we’ve made. Our favourite perry from another producer is Black Mountain Perry by Newton Court.