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Ben Wanefield

Salvador Bali meets the man behind Bali’s new cider, Albens (hic).

WHAT’S the story?

Ben Wanefield, from the Guernsey Islands, age 34 and single.

Some background formula as to how Albens Cider came about?

Actually I started off as an alertest, tree surgeon and then I got into orchard management doing lots of tree climbing and then got more into the biology and oxygens and things, then started into apple orchards. From that I got offered a job in Malang managing orchards there to make this drink. But the apples in Malang didn’t actually make a good cider, so we had to import, but we use the Malang apples for flavouring, so cider making, and wine making.

So you are the man with the cider here in Bali?

Yes and no, the truth is there are myself and a few partners from Singapore who, own the trademark, the brand, and recipe license to this Indonesian company which produces the cider.

Where is the factory?

Negara, Jembranna, West Bali.

How long has Albens Cider been on the market?

It was anchored last September.

Wow, this here cider has one hell of kick.

It’s weird you say that, it looks like a bottle of beer and has the same percentage of alcohol, but the process is totally different, it’s more of a wine making process … it’s atmospheric fermentations.

So you can actually get drunk on this, actually very drunk …

To be honest, 4.9 percent alcohol drawn from fruit, it’s very different from alcohol from grain. If you drink enough beer you can get sort of a heavy bad head, the fruit alcohol lifts you up and a little bit more.

So if anyone seeing you says you look kind of fruity.

Yeah, exactly

What about the health aspect?

That’s another thing, the drink itself; the main ingredient is apple juice. We pour apple juice for the fermentations, and then sweetener afterwards which blends in more apple juice.

I just see a lot of veggies wobbling down the street. Where’s your distribution?

Outlets, lets see, quite a few in Jakarta, in Bali around the Seminyak area there’s Biku, Mantra, Ku De Ta, quite a few actually in Seminyak, plus malls and supermarkets. We’re using a small distributor here at the moment and they’re just finding their feet.

What was your biggest obstacle to be founding in the making of Albens?

The government, with delays and registration and the like, from a production point of view, the hardest thing is chilling, getting the juice cold enough because cider is traditionally made in England and Europe. The apples are harvested at the end of autumn and then pressed and fermented over winter. Imagine all those tanks in the U.K., the temperature, three or four degrees, here the ambient temperature is thirty or forty degrees. So we’ve got this constant chilling going on through all the tanks to get a consistent product. You’ve got to chill it very cold to absorb the carbon dioxide. That’s been the biggie.

How has the response been?

All positive, a lot of women like to drink it. One of the main reasons for Albens, because when you look at the drinks that are available, you’ve got beer, which everybody drinks, and then there’s a huge gap before you get to wine and cocktails. You can’t be sexist about it, but a lot of women do not prefer beer or like it, they would rather have something else. Actually the drink is developed for the Indonesian market. From the research that we did there’s something about Indonesian taste buds, they like things sweeter, even orange juice, which is loaded with sugar.

Indonesian market and not the tourist market?

Tourist market as well, but the development of the brand. Looking at the Jakarta market it is the biggest in the country. I don’t say trends flow through Jakarta, but developing a brand, that’s the place to do it. Selling alcohol, that’s what Bali is good for.

Bringing it back home, how long have you been in Bali?

As a base, three years now, but I’ve been coming to Bali since 1996, surfing for three months at a time. I love Bali, so when I got this job opportunity, I jumped on it.

You must be very proud of yourself?

It’s been interesting and quite enjoyable work as well, so yes …

What is your philosophy?

I guess, that’s a tricky question. I just do things I enjoy.

What do you have to say to your new found fans out there?

Keep enjoying and hope you appreciate the time and effort that’s gone into this product as nice and fresh as it is.