Bilpin, the Land of the Mountain Apple, is the place to find the Hillbilly Cider Shed and it's a great place to unwind after wandering around nearby national parks and gardens. Owned by Shane and Tessa McLaughlin, there's an air of enjoyment of good times with mates and a chilled cider in hand.
The rustic country vibe is apparent as you approach the roadside shed, overlooking an orchard and grassy areas with bench tables and seats. Both child and dog-friendly, it offers taste testing and food to fill your belly.
A range of naturally sparkling ciders are made here without the addition of sugar, without pasteurising, and without artificial flavours, just crushed fruit fermented with minimal intervention. Both gluten-free and vegan-friendly, a variety of apple types are used as well as pears.
Here's some of what you will find you can taste test direct from the barrel –
Scrumpy Cider – the cloudy cider with some funk from Heritage cider apples
Sweet Julie Cider – the only cider in the world using the Julie apple, a vibrant red apple with sweet floral characteristics
Hillbilly Vintage Apple Cider – a limited release using late-season fully ripened apples, double fermented with the addition of French oak and hints of crème caramel
Crushed Pear Cider – with ripe pear aromas
Hillbilly Vintage Apple Cider with Basket Pressed Blackberry – a limited release medium-dry Rosé style cider combining apples and blackberries
A couple of non-alcoholic ciders are available as well, including an apple cider with a ginger kick.
Further north-west in Warren, wine is produced by Shane at the organic vineyard he planted on the family sheep farm 20 years ago. The range focuses mostly on Shiraz and is available at the Hillbilly Cider Shed.
If you're hungry, stay for a while and enjoy a wood-fired pizza – Neapolitan-style. There's garlic pizza, ham and pineapple, Margherita, pepperoni, and a vegan pizza. Specialty pizzas are added from time to time. For dessert, try the apple calzone with Sweet Julie cider caramel sauce and cinnamon stewed apples served with whipped cream. All are made fresh on-site.
Live music is also planned for the post-COVID era to further the Hillbilly experience but in the meantime check out this 'feel good' YouTube video of The Hillbilly Cider song.
A shop is available for all your takeaways and includes not only beverages in single bottles and cases but delicious nougat and cookies, along with Hillbilly merchandise in the form of T-shirts, baseball caps, and posters.
The experience of a drive along the Bells Line of Rd to Bilpin and The Shed is a worthwhile one as it is an easy 90-minute trip if coming from Sydney and once you pass Richmond it's like you're transported to another world as you travel through quaint little village-like townships to your destination where you can chill out in the sunshine, breathe in the fresh air, and absorb the laidback country atmosphere and hillbilly magic.
If you can't make it to Bilpin though, you can shop online. Else, check your local liquor store as some do stock some varieties of the Hillbilly Cider.