This month we sat down under the shade in the court yard of Cheeky Grog Co. with Mark Morey who had just spent the sunny morning working in the cidery. Being involved in orchards most of his life, it wasn’t until 2004 that Mark and his wife Jenny decided to delve into the world of cider and Cheeky Grog Co was born.
Why did you start Cheeky Grog Co.?
We had juice apples left over from production and we weren’t getting paid enough for them. After going to England we saw all the cider over there so decided to make it at home. Thus began Cheeky Grog Co.
What makes you stand out from the rest?
We do the whole process from start to finish, from the growing to the bottling. We do our own promotion, trade and we run our cidery as a restaurant on the weekends offering woodfire pizzas. It’s nice to put a customer face to what you are selling after being a fruit grower all your life. Being here and behind the bar, you can explain things a lot better about what you do. I think people like knowing where everything comes from and connecting with somebody who’s doing it.
How does the cider making process work?
We have approximately 250 acres of orchards we run in conjunction with Cheeky Grog Co. We usually get a portion of apples back from the grader. We crush them, juice them and add yeast which will make them ferment and turn into the cider. We then sweeten or adjust the mix to get the range of different ciders we have.
What is your cider range?
We have 11 different ciders at the moment. The commercial range includes sweet apple, apple pear combination, dry apple and a pear combination. We have heritage apples, which is a cider variety specifically to bottle ferment. We made four new ones this year which were quite successful in the cider awards. In the four we entered we ended up with two bronzes and a silver. We also make a champagne.
Which cider is your ‘go to’ drink?
My favourite is the ‘Secret Seven’. It’s made from seven different heritage apples. It’s a good cider; not that the others aren’t. I like it as I am more of a dry palate sort of person.
You manage many employees doing a range of different jobs. What’s your secret to managing them?
Be honest with them. Tell them how you feel about what they are doing and how their work is going. Compliment them if they are doing a good job. Explain to them why you would like something done differently, with a nice honest approach. Work with them, we definitely work with all our workers. Basically, be willing to do the job they are doing. You are no better than anyone else. They appreciate when you work with them. If you get down and amongst it with them, they work for you rather than work against you. You are willing to do what I am doing so, I’ll do it for you as well.
Cheeky Grog Co. has an active Facebook page. How much of an impact does it have on your business?
I think our major advertising point is our Facebook page, also Instagram. We get a lot of customers through those pages. Jenny does it and she does a great job, doesn’t over use it but just enough to keep everyone interested.
You do taste testing; how does that work?
Customers come in and we give you a taste testing form with a list of varieties we make and include information about the ciders. We give you a pen and you can comment yes I really liked that I want more or this one is horrible, which we never get that comment.
What are your future plans for Cheeky Grog Co.?
Our goals are to sell a bit more cider, ramp up our sales team and produce more cider. We want to reach 100,000 litres and we are close to 50,000 litres now, so we want to double production. We have more equipment to purchase in the cidery. We want to expand our kitchen area, offer more food and perhaps offer takeaway pizzas. We plan to open more days and extend our trading hours. I want to build a cellar. We need to expand our cider production area, we are out growing everything we do. We are rigging up a little caravan for festivals to make it easier to get in and out instead of having to cart everything manually.
If you could have a cider with anyone in history who would it be?
I quite like Bruce Willis, I would sit down with Bruce Willis and change him over from a whisky to a cider drinker.
The Cheeky Grog Co opening hours are Saturday and Sunday 12-5 bookings advisable
Facebook: Cheeky Grog Co.
Location: 5160 Barmah-Shepparton Rd, Bunbartha VIC 3634
Phone: 1300 CHEEKY or 0417 781 918