Harcourt’s cider pioneer remembered

Drew Henry will be remembered as a man with a pioneering spirit who was always willing and happy to pass on his knowledge.

The cider maker who founded Henry of Harcourt passed away unexpectedly last week.

He leaves behind his wife Irene, two sons (Michael and Russell) and five grandchildren.

Michael said his father began making cider about 18 years ago after working in exploration geology.

“He was sick and tired of the rat race in Melbourne and while working in a mine up here began talking to a real estate agent,” Michael said.

“The agent had a property with apple trees on it and before the place went on the market, (dad) bought it and started growing.”

Michael said Drew found growing apples wasn’t as profitable as he thought it would be and eventually turned to cider.

“When he was deciding what to do with the land he talked himself out of grapes,” Michael said.

“No one was really doing cider and mum loved it, so he decided to have a bash at that.

“He made the first batch of cider from red delicious apples and it was woeful. It had a lot of alcohol and not much else.”

Drew and his wife, Irene, travelled to England to learn about cider and eventually began making two traditional types of cider.

“He figured there was more to cider than crushing apples and letting them go off,” Michael said.

“So he went to England, to Sheppy’s Cider and got an understanding about cider apples.

“He investigated those and bought a few varieties, planted them and made the next batch.”

When the craft brewing and cider-making craze took off in Victoria, Henry of Harcourt was already established.

“We were cemented as a founding brand that had a particular level of quality,” Michael said.

“(Dad) was quite proud of that but always willing to share the knowledge we had. Most cider makers have come to talk to us and (Dad was very free with the information he gave out.

“He was interested in helping the cider industry.”

As a father, Michael said Drew was a very practical man.

“He was very pragmatic and while he was strict and stern, he was very caring,” Michael said.

“If something went wrong he would fix it and if you screwed up, you knew you were in trouble but that was it.

“There was no unfairness and he had a particular level that he held himself to. He held everyone else to that level and expected you to try your best to reach that level.”

Michael said Drew’s high level of expectations flowed into the family’s cider business.

“It was paramount that everything had to be at its best,” Michael said.

“If it wasn’t, then it wasn’t seen. The rare batches that didn’t work were either turned into vinegar or, if it really wasn’t up to scratch, disposed of.”

In a 2011 story with the Bendigo Advertiser, Drew’s high levels of expectation and quality were evident.

“Everybody is jumping on the bandwagon,” he said at the time. “We treat (cider) like it’s a wine, not a sweet, fizzy alternative to beer.”

“(Ciders) are all different – there is as much variety in them as white and red wine.”

Drew Henry was a larger-than-life pioneer

Drew Henry’s daughter-in-law Troyene Evans writes that Drew was a staunch support of his community.

Drew Henry was a larger-than-life character. He was a storyteller, a traveler, an adventurer,  and a pioneer.

He travelled to the far corners of the world in his role as a geologist, immersing himself in local cultures and adding to his wealth of knowledge.  

In years to follow, true to his geological background, he was always a goldmine of entertaining tales which he would happily share over a pint.

He had a biting wit, a keen intelligence and a wicked sense of humour. He was a no-nonsense practical man, who nevertheless exuded a warmth to those close to him.

When he, Irene, Michael and Russell moved to Harcourt, Drew’s exacting standards and pioneering spirit meant that their traditional cider business was built upon principles of integrity and innovation.  

He was a forerunner in Victoria for his insistence on the use of traditional cider apples, and his belief that single varietal ciders made from this traditional fruit can be as complex and deserving of high praise as any fine wine.

This principle and the family’s hard work has led to multiple award winning ciders, something that Drew took well deserved pride in.

The most enduring image of Drew Henry, is of a man who worked hard and was a staunch supporter of his community.

He gave his time and added wisdom to many committees and boards, always with a view to ensuring a better and brighter future for everyone in Harcourt.

His tireless pursuit of excellence, his boundless energy and his practical wisdom will never be forgotten.

He was, quite simply, a gem.

The most enduring image of Drew Henry, is of a man who worked hard and was a staunch supporter of his community... His tireless pursuit of excellence, his boundless energy and his practical wisdom will never be forgotten. He was, quite simply, a gem.

Troyene Evans about her father-in-law Drew Henry