Dancing the fine line between rip-off and tribute

Dancing the fine line between rip-off and tribute


To properly explain where the new merch design came from, I have to give you a bit of a history lesson in myself, and ballooning too.

It’s no secret that I am a Hot Air Balloon obsessive. I have been around these colourful skybound monoliths for my entire life, and almost everything I do has some way of revolving around them. My grandfather and father were both pilots, and some of my earliest, and fondest memories, were spent waking up before sunrise, heading to a field bathed in the morning glow and flying (mostly) silently above the world as those who inhabit it start to stir. 

Growing up around ballooning also meant growing up around the people in it. You have to be slightly different minded to participate in this sport. It’s essentially a flamethrower, some nylon and an oversized picnic basket that you can’t steer. Nevertheless, there were visionaries, adventurers and those who set goals far higher than anyone I’d known. There were many that I respected, looked up to have the same skill and spirit as one day. In this misfit band of risk-takers, there was one I idolised the most, Per Lindstrand, owner of Thunder and Colt balloons. From his solo record breaking flights, the awesome flights across both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans with Richard Branson, to his innovation in the field of lighter than air crafts, I’ve been inspired by this man ever since I can remember.

I have honoured Per in various ways throughout my cider-making career, the most obvious one being naming our pear cider directly after him, and the less obvious “Into The Jetstream” named for the time he flew across the Atlantic in a Hot Air Balloon by entering the jetstream and breaking the hot air balloon speed record, which still stands today. 

Thunder and Colt had a logo that I still find beautiful to this day. A rainbow of balloons above the 80’s era font “THUNDER AND COLT” with “HOT AIR BALLOONS, AIRSHIPS, INFLATABLES” or occasionally “ALTITUDE, DISTANCE, DURATION” when they held the record for each attribute. I see this logo as a statement to the world. This is what we’re about, this is what we do, get used to it. Something I wanted to convey with our own design this year.


Above: The Thunder & Colt logo


Above: Our Thunder & Colt inspired logo for use on merchandise.


Snap into 2020, and I was given some time by the pandemic to look at Ascension with different eyes and take a step back to ask why I was doing this. Simply, it’s all about what I call the triangle of Ascension.

  1. Fermentation. Well, you don’t get alcohol without fermentation. Wild fermentation is the norm for us here, but as we look forward, we are increasingly intrigued at the different characteristics that yeast and bacteria can impart upon apple and fruit fermentations. It’s a necessary part of the process and exploring this is going to be a massive part of our operation moving forwards. We may well start fermentations containing other than just apple juice too…
  2. Aviation. Another obvious one. We’ll be in the air as often as the weather and our schedule allow. Ballooning has shaped my life as much as cider has, and the lessons learnt from flying has directly affected my approach to making cider and running this business. Keep calm, go with nature and respect the land. 
  3. Preservation. The amount of food waste that happens in this country is a national disgrace. Produce that does not reach the food chain due to it not hitting the supermarket standards is a loss that every farmer and grower can sincerely do without. We will always buy as many apples as possible from these growers to ensure that they can continue their passion as we do. This commitment comes with the dedication to always using 100% apple juice in our ciders and never using artificial flavours or colourants. Cider made with honesty, integrity and pride will always triumph in my book. 


With these cornerstones of Ascension in place, I went to local designer Hackney Design and presented him with the elements above. What we got in return was a perfect representation of Ascension, and one I’m proud to have emblazoned on our merchandise. 

Thunder and Colt Balloons closed down in the 90’s, but hopefully this tribute to them will bring a smile to both balloon and cider enthusiasts, thinking fondly not only of the past, but looking forward to what the future holds as well.

You can find our merchandise emblazoned with this design, along with cans of delicious cider, on our webshop here: www.ascensioncider.co.uk/shop


Ian Fry

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