Brian Brunt, 63, has been making cider for most of his life. Five weeks ago, he launched Bruntys Premium Cider at Kingdom Brewery, where he brews strawberry, apple and pear cider. Currently serving the Cambodian and Thai markets, the dream is to become Asia’s premier cider brand. He talked to Bennett Murray about his bold business venture and his love of cider making.
How long have you been in the cider business?
It started as a hobby of mine in a garage when I was a teenager about 45 years ago. I made wine, beer and cider. Cider interested me the most, because I lived in Somerset, the cider capital of the world. A lot of my friends had farms, and they made ciders on the farms. I started commercially about 30 years ago.
I have several brands back in Somerset, including Broadoak, Moonshine, Rustic Gold, Red Oak, Pheasant Plucker, and a few I can’t remember at the moment. My wife is back there running things. Cambodia is my first foreign venture.
Why did you choose Cambodia to set up shop?
I’d never actually been here before. A friend of mine has connections here, and we got together and had this idea and it seemed like the right thing to do, because there’s nobody here doing it. Cider has been the fastest growing alcohol sector in the world for the past six or seven years.
Has it caught on in the local markets?
So far, it’s been fantastic. Everybody seems to love it. We’ve done two years research down here, and we discovered [Asians] have a sweeter palate, and I thought that strawberries were bound to work. I sat down with my son and some strawberries and apples, and came up with his. I don’t like it, it’s not for my palate, but the young girls like it especially.
We’re only launching the three flavours this year, but I’m looking at using some local Cambodian fruits in the future. I’ve been talking to people with mango groves. Years ago I made a mango cider and it was delicious, so I think I might bring some mangoes out. And some citrus fruits, with the lemons and oranges and the limes, would be lovely.
How did you end up bottling your cider with Kingdom Breweries?
Their sales had gone down a bit, and their bottle sales were not up at all. So this bottling line was available, and a partner of mine knew this place and he was going to buy it. We come down and offered X dollars per case, which is three to four more times than what they’d make on beer bottles. It’s a bit expensive, but it’s good to try this out without making our own facilities and spending millions. The facilities alternate between producing their beer half the time and our cider the other half. In a single shift, we can produce 10 pallets, or 1,440 bottles. We’ve got an 18 month contract, and if it takes off the way it looks like it will, we’ll invest in our own place.
How does brewing beer differ from brewing cider?
It’s a completely different thing from beer. Actually, we don’t call it brewing, we call it cider making. We’re using fruits rather than malts and barley, so it’s a different process, and it takes a lot longer to ferment. But the equipment is largely the same, and we really didn’t need to bring a lot of equipment here. We just brought our own filter, as well as our own rubber pipes to make sure there is no cross contamination with the beer.
Where do you get your apples?
The apples come from Somerset. It’s not very complicated to get them here, because we evaporate them. You take all the water out, ship them, and then rehydrate, so you don’t lose any apples. The strawberries and pears come from the UK as well.
What is so great about being a cider maker?
It’s nice that I’m doing something I love doing that’s not like work, and everyone enjoys it. The more I perfect it, the happier I am. There are still things I learn every day after all these years. I’m 63 and should be retiring, but it’s not work for me, so how could I retire from something I love doing?