This is not entirely unknown territory for Mike - last year saw the launch of Henney's Traditional, the bag in box cider distributed throughout the Midlands by Purity Brewing Company, but this time he wanted to create something with wider appeal - a bright sparkling keg cider.
One of the first considerations is strength. Henney's bottled ciders are typically around 6% abv - and there aren't many pub landlords happy to be dishing out pints at such a strength. So the first thing Mike had to do was blend a slightly lighter cider more suited to pub drinking.
Next there's the tricky issue of distribution. Obviously he has all the logistics in place for producing bottled cider, but the delivery of keg cider into pubs requires an entirely different set of suppliers and equipment. Cider has to be moved - from farm to a bottler geared up to fill kegs, then on to pubs. Branded bar fonts are required, plus supportive material - beer mats and bar runners. And you wouldn't believe how many spare kegs are needed to ensure the cider keeps flowing - some are being filled, some are in pubs, some are empty and on their way back to the bottlers... For every keg sitting in a pub cellar there are two or three more floating around. And stainless steel kegs are not cheap.
Given the challenge of sales and delivery into pubs, a trusted distributor with a good customer base and logistics already in place is what is really needed. And as luck would have it, there is just such a company nearby.... Enter into the story Wye Valley Brewery, Herefordshire's leading cask-ale brewer based just two miles away from Henney's - and following a series of meetings 'just up the road' Mike is delighted to have set up an exclusive arrangement with them to supply his new cider.
And finally there is the matter of a product name, but funnily enough this was already in place. A couple of years ago now Mike noticed that 'Autumn Gold' the old Taunton Cider product, was no longer registered - so he acquired the name. So Henney's Autumn Gold has been registered for some time now - and was just waiting for the right cider to be created...
... and that cider is now ready. Introducing Henney's Autumn Gold a light, bright medium sweet cider, 4.5% abv, crisp and refreshing with a light sparkle.
And so, to be the first to try Henney's Autumn Gold head over to the Barrel's today. They are hosting their now infamous Barrel's Beer Festival all over this bank holiday weekend - and will even be handing out free samples of Henney's Autumn Gold, while stocks last.
And with Wye Valley Brewery pubs already starting to order their kegs of Autumn Gold, expect to see it cropping up in more pubs across the area in the weeks and months ahead.