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Meet the businessman introducing Americans to English cider

PUBLISHED: 13:50 11 October 2019 | UPDATED: 14:04 11 October 2019

Stephen Schuurman, from Beccles, owner of Winchester Ciderworks in Virginia, USA. Picture: Bethany Whymark

Stephen Schuurman, from Beccles, owner of Winchester Ciderworks in Virginia, USA. Picture: Bethany Whymark

Archant

A Suffolk entrepreneur who made a home in the United States is introducing the country to a taste of his homeland.

The cellar of Winchester Ciderworks in Virginia, USA. Picture: Bethany WhymarkThe cellar of Winchester Ciderworks in Virginia, USA. Picture: Bethany Whymark

Stephen Schuurman from Beccles set up the Winchester Ciderworks in Virginia around seven years ago.

The company has gone from strength to strength, helping to quench the growing thirst for "hard cider" across the pond.

Mr Schuurman, 54, moved to America 14 years ago and worked for a plastics company before making the transition into the beverage market.

"I taught myself over 20 years how to make cider," he said.

Inside the tasting room at Winchester Ciderworks in Virginia, USA. Picture: Bethany WhymarkInside the tasting room at Winchester Ciderworks in Virginia, USA. Picture: Bethany Whymark

"I was going to plant a vineyard out here on my property, but everybody was getting into wine in Virginia.

"I lived next door to an orchard so I started to borrow some of the apples and make my own cider."

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After partnering with the orchard's owners, Mr Schuurman retrofitted a property outside the town of Winchester - the former apple capital of the United States - to create his cidery.

Pictures from Beccles inside the tasting room at Winchester Ciderworks in Virginia, USA. Picture: Bethany WhymarkPictures from Beccles inside the tasting room at Winchester Ciderworks in Virginia, USA. Picture: Bethany Whymark

Its first product was Malice, a "really East Anglian-style cider", which has been followed by West Country-style ciders, versions infused with ginger and blackcurrant and products aged in bourbon and rye barrels.

He primarily uses an apple variety called gold rush - "the best juice apple I have ever worked with" - and ciders go through a long aging process - between nine and 12 months, compared with as little as three weeks at bigger American cider makers.

Attached to Winchester Ciderworks is a tap house where visitors can pull up a bar stool and sample its drinks, as well as viewing picture collages from Mr Schuurman's native Suffolk.

The company's products are now sold in five states and Mr Schuurman expects to break into another two to four states next year.

Inside the tasting room at Winchester Ciderworks in Virginia, USA. Picture: Bethany WhymarkInside the tasting room at Winchester Ciderworks in Virginia, USA. Picture: Bethany Whymark

But he said the American market was not without its challenges.

"Each state has its own different laws. In Virginia we are taxed as wine while in Maryland we are taxed as beer. People here don't really know what to do with us," he said.

"My job is not just to serve people cider but to educate them."

Mr Schuurman's next big step for the business is a planned investment in his own canning line, which he said could help the cidery to make significant savings in production costs.

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