Aspalls Mulled Cider

I hate Christmas. Christmas is a time for chaos, panic, desperately meeting everyone you know, as if Christmas is some kind of looming apocalypse.
And alcoholism.

To take the edge off, it would be seemly to try a mulled cider. Fortunately, someone has read my thoughts (or knows I’m an alcoholic) and bought me a bottle of Aspalls Mulled. This is a 3.8% from the Suffolk-based ciderists, though I don’t know how much alcohol is left after I cook it.Aspalls Mulled Cyder

The ‘serving suggestion’ is to heat it and serve it with a slice of orange. I stick it in a pan, and slice a tangerine in half (I find oranges are very messy). There’s already a spicy aroma as it simmers away on the hob.

I drink from one of my many handled-tankards, to avoid burning myself. The cider is nicely warming and very tangy. Spiciness is very much apparent, not like a weak, teabagged mulled wine that you get in the shops around Chrimbo, in the hope of them getting you drunk enough to buy some shit. I can really tatse the cinamon and cloves.

Aspalls Mulled Cyder Pan

Cooking Up

The sweetness of the Aspalls dessert apples is squeezing through, like Santa’s arse down a chimney. Mind you, if he came down my chimney, all he’d get is carbon monoxide poisoning. I’ll save the Carry On joke for the next paragraph.

As a Christmas-hater, I don’t eat turkey, Christmas pud, Christmas cake, or any of that shite, and only put up one Christmas decoration each year. However, this Aspalls is making one feel decidedly festive. I might even play a Spotify playlist – as long as it doesn’t have ‘Driving Home For Christmas’ by the growly man. I hate that one as well.
Aspalls is much nicer than the very dry mulled cider I made years ago. The recommended food-pairing is steamed puddin’ and custard, or just a slice of orange. I’m quite happy with my half a tangerine, I’d rather not repeat my last experience with a steaming tart.

It’s cold. I put on my Santa hat and throw another coal on the fire.
Bah humbug! At least austerity is over.

After some time, and a number of trippy out-of-body-experiences, I wake up on my sofa in the eearly hours.
It’s already morning! I Wonder if Santa has been!
I check my socks and also under the tiny plastic Muji tree.
Fuck all.

Still, ’tis better to give than to receive. I open my diesel-dusted window and call to a passing street urchin:
“Boy, what day is it?”
“Dunno. Christmas or wha’ever, inni.”
“Take this tenner and buy the biggest organic, free-range goose you can, from that hipster meat-shop with the trend-on sign.”
“Fuck off you wanker!
He limps off, laughing, into KFC with my tenner.

Verdict 4.5/5

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Burrow Hill Farm Pressed Cider

The latest bottle from my Bristol Cider Shop Box, though some have gone mysteriously missing. Burrow Hill is a blend of at least 11 apple varieties from their Somerset orchards of 40 varieties. I don’t know why they stopped counting at 11. Burrow Hill received the first license to distill cider in the UK in 1989 and make a range of apple-based booze. I’ve yet to try any cider brandy. Maybe for Christmas . . .

Burrow Hill Farm Pressed CiderI’m watching a documentary from the 60s. One old chap says cider drinking killed his father – it only took 84 years to do it. Another says he has a pint of cider with supper and then to bed. It stops him getting ill. Wise words, I believe. Burrow Hill makes me feel very healthy.

This 6% lightly sparkling cider is very woody, quite dry. The label suggests a vintage blockbuster film about an apple orchard. I’m taken back to a time of vast sunsets over the farmland, with haystacks and traction engines – a bit like the end of War Horse, but without the crying.

A time when cider was drunk by real men. And real men were drunk by cider. And Dvorak’s 9th Symphony (the Hovis tune) drifts over the fields of the setting sun, and we drink a tankard of warm cider, while sitting on a barrel outside a dusty tavern after a hard day’s toiling in the fields.

The camera slowly zooms in on the lone apple tree standing on Burrow Hill, as we fade to black, and the credits roll.

Verdict 5/5

The Taunton Cider Co: First Press Original

I’ve spent a day at the Globe today: Shakespeare’s Globe.
Did you know, their toilets used to be buckets in front of the stage, and the audience used to eat onions and shout at the performers? But try telling that to the Royal Shakesperian Company when you’re chucked out of the National for slagging off the geezer in tights and pissing on the stage.

Anyway, after this, I popeth into yon Euston Cider Tap, which I findeth is now just Ye Tap: now only three ciders, two of which were off, and a load of people and music and modernity and life. Hideous, methinks.

And so, homeward bound I go to ponder upon the delights of ye Bristol Ciders Box and plucketh a bottle from thine cardboard bosom.

Taunton Cider First Press

Taunton First Press catcheth my eye
Slightly sparkling, thus with a sip I try.
Dry, fresh, oaky; just like I’d wish
Like a fine leather codpiece, I don’t mean the fish
Or an old wooden theatre, touched by the kiss
Of a hundred raw onions and buckets of piss.

Verdict 4/5

Rich’s Cider: Golden Harvest

The Bristol Cider Shop is a shop in Bristol. It sells cider. It’s where I will work if I move to Bristol.

My friend in Oz sent me a Bristol Cider Shop selection box. How exciting – like a cider glory-hole. A wise man once said “Life is like a box of ciders – you’ll never remember what you’re gonna get”.
Time to kick back with some quality educational Friday night documentaries and a few proper ciders.
Heres goes number 1.

Richs-GoldenHarvest-Cider

Rich’s Golden Harvest is clear and slightly sparkling – apply-sweet and sticky. And we all like a bit of that. As I settle into documentaries about tranny murders and drug wars, I’m comforted by the toffee in the taste. Reading the label, I see there is added apple juice. Well, that’s honest, and not entirely disallowed. I should really have done that with my home made batch last year. It was terribly dry and a little unpleasant. Like I always say, if it don’t seem right, shove an apple in tight.

Anyway, Rich’s is a Somerset Cider at 4.5%
https://www.richscider.co.uk/our-story/
Family made, in the traditional way, or is it traditionally made in the family way. Or maybe in the family way, made traditional.
Anyway, tasty. Like the apples.

4.5/5

The Wobbly Press Three

A gang has been lurking at the back of my fridge for a while.

On a recent CAMRA Cider and Perry trip, one of the stops was to Old Mill Farm, the source of Wobblegate fruit juices and the more recently named Wobbly Press Cider. I’m glad I grabbed the chance to purchase some bottles from their wide range of ciders in the shop.

Wobbly Press 3-1

These three ciders have sat in my fridge for a while, and as I find myself sober on a Friday night, I might as well put them to effective use.
And so, we meet The Wobbly Press Three.

First, we meet Wobblegate Summer Breeze, cider with elderflower. He’s like the older, camp one of the gang; dressed up like a Beach Boys album cover and smelling of elderflower. This is the first screw-top cider I’ve had since a 1.5 litre bottle of Blue Ocean white cider when I was a student.

Summer Breeze is a hazy cider made with dessert apples from the Sussex fruit farm of the Wobbly Press. Summer says, “I don’t have any artificial sweeteners, preservatives or colourings”. It’s a nice summer drink, a light taste, but with a tiny bit of tanginess. the elderflower isn’t overpowering and it remains an apple cider with a touch of elderflower, rather than an elderflower-flavoured cider.

I’m struggling to read the bits of the label that are white text on yellow. It seems it’s all the least important bits like ‘Thumbs up to drinking responsibly’, ‘4% ABV’ and ‘Cider for hazy lazy daze’, with an inexplicable vulvesque symbol. So, you could probably have a whole crate and still get on your bike for a ride through the sunny Sussex farmland and not be too wobbly to fall off at the gate.

Next to step forward is The Boxer: still, dry Sussex scrumpy. A clearer but stronger cider. The Boxer smells a bit more like a man, drier than Breezy, but from the same dessert apple gang. At 6%, Boxer packs a bit more of a punch, though I’m feeling like his bark is worse than his bite. He has quite a gentle character, not the bare-knuckle hard-case I was expecting. Apparently Boxer is good with fatty meats too, and who doesn’t love a bit of fatty meat ‘n’ cider?

Finally, we get to meet The Dame, a strawberry-flavoured 4% cider. Unlike the candy-tasting Swedish fruit ciders, this is a real cider, flavoured with real strawberry. A little pinker and sweeter than the others in the gang, The Dame still has the earthy, real apple taste below her ‘you’re-not-going-out-dressed-like-that’ strawberry dress.

Deceptively tasty – if you spent too long drinking The Dame she might knock you out. Unfortunately, The Man has decided that fruit ciders need to be taxed as wines if they are over 4%. Senseless. We need a revolution. It doesn’t have to be televised. We could WhatsApp it. Emojiate the government until they are forced into exile.
Anyway, pair The Dame with ice creams and desserts. I’ve never fancied an ice cream when I’m drinking cider. It could get messy. Like a cider float.

So, what’s the verdict on the Wobbly Press Three? For dessert ciders – which can be sickly sweet – they are very nice, easy-drinking ciders. However, they all have a similar base taste, without the edginess or menace you might expect from a West Country gang. Wobbly Press does focus of fruit flavours (being primarily a fruit farm) but has produced a range (many more are not discussed here) of good summer’s day ciders that deserve to be set free.

Final verdcit: 4/5

Not guilty

CAMRA Cider and Perry Trip, Sussex 2017

The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) don’t just shout about beers. They also have an Apple Committee, for all things cider (and perry). I missed out on the very popular Cider and Perry trip last year. It’s advertised in CAMRA’s monthly ‘What’s Brewing’ magazine, or e-zine or whatever they call a pdf newspaper thing.

Crawley Train Station

Sunny Crawley

This year, I had success. The meeting place was Crawley train station, zone 5, south London. The time? Saturday morning, 11am. As I trundle across the London railway, I’m reading the book ‘Hellraisers‘ about the great British drinkers of Hollywood in the 50s–70s.

I’m already a bit hungover as I arrive at the beautiful, sunny Crawley train station. As I exit the station, I see a large group of people already formed on the steps. The cider t-shirts are a bit of a giveaway. So, this surly-looking bunch will be my own Hellraisers for the day.

Everyone is in high spirits, as a cider drinker would be. I’ve already met some members of the Apple Committee (they talk about making cider). On the coach I read the details of the locations we’ll be visiting: Wobblegate, Kissingate and Village Green. What brillant names! We sail through the verdant Sussex countryside, and I look out the window at the cottages and quaint, old road signs. It’s like being in a Postman Pat film. Except I’m on a bus full of hardened cider-drinkers on the lash.

Wobblegate
Old Mill FarmThe bus gingerly tiptoes over the prehistoric bridge to Wobblegate at Old Mill Farm. Primarily in the fruit juice business, the family-run farm has turned its hand to cider making. The Hellraisers pour off the bus, past vast crates, full of red apples and into a barn. Quite a few boxes of cider are presented in a row, with some plastic pint glasses at the end. It’s a free-for-all and I take my time before squeezing in among the other cider-piglets, suckling at the Wobblegate teats.

There’s a wide variety of ciders – fruit-flavoured ciders, hopped cider, and just cider. The nice chap what runs it tells us about the business and shows us round the cider press. They use dessert apples, and fruit from the south east and have now given the cider its own distinct brand: Wobbly Press.Cider-Perry-Trip-2017-3

I learn that the reason east England ciders are made with dessert apples stems only from the history of orchards growing apples to supply the London demand for eating apples. I always thought it was the climate! I also learn that if you want to commercially preserve a cider you either pasteurise it or add sulphites. Wobbly Press are pasteurised, though one wily Hellraiser tells me that pasteurisation takes the edge off, and flattens the tatse.

Just enough time to buy a few bottles at the shop and water the plants, before getting back on the wagon only slightly tipsy – it’s still early.

Wobblegate Apple Crate

Cider before it’s cider

Kissingate Brewery
Next stop Kissingate. This is actually a brewery that grew from small beginnings and is now expanding. Kissingate is an award-winning brewery, but they do stock some local ciders and perries. I make a mental note (never a good thing to do when drinking cider) to try some of the Kissingate beers in the future, but for now, we’re on a cider and perry trip – I have work to do. With a licenced bar, they also hold various booze-based events.

Cider-Perry-Trip-2017-5

The Hellraisers are warming up now, as the sun almost comes out. Still, no chairs or fists are flying as everyone respectably queues for the food; a mini banquet kindly put on by the Kissingate team. Some hit and miss ciders here, but each one worth writing about. However, specifics are not on the agenda today. One kind CAMRA member has bought a set of bottled beers for the coach driver, so he’s looking forward to trying those, just as soon as he’s dropped off a load of Scientologists after our cider trip!
I hope he survived.

Village Green Cider

Village Green
I’m starting to nod off on the coach as we cruise towards the final destination. We pile off the coach again, crunching acrons underfoot as we walk down the country road to Fen Cottage. This is the home of Village Green ciders. it’s actually a garage in which two guys have built a cider press with 50 tonnes of squashage. Some of the Hellraisers get stuck in to the apples with a shovel; they can’t wait.

There’s a rather endearing video on their website, of the cider-making process, though my favourite bit is the music. In fact it’s the music that will be my incidental tune, while I go about my daily business. Try playing it on your headphones next time you’re out. You’ll want to doff your cap and wish “Good morrow!” to all, as you stroll in britches and feathered cap, puppet-like, down the high street. Probably what the world needs right now.

Anyway, like all cider makers, Ben is a very nice young chap, who now sells his award-winning cider in local pubs. After a tour of the facility and asisting in some cider pulping (and trying to cane as much free cider as possible), the Hellraisers stumble back to the coach.

It’s back to Three Bridges train station, where, while staring at some birds flying in the sky, I miss the train that is right in front of me, slope off to the local pub for a bog standard, and watch the local ruffians being manhandled by the barmen. Then back on the next train to solace and safety. I haven’t quite acheived the notoriety of our original Hollywood Hellraisers, but if there’d been a telly in one of the cider farms, I’m sure it would have gone through the window.

Same time next year?

Bignose Beardy Early Doors and Boars Head

Bignose Beardy? Whch cheeky git gave me this? Oh, it’s ciders from Mother Kelly’s Bottle Shop? Let’s get on it then!

I read that the real Bignose and Beardy are Phil and Steve who both work full time, but invite locals and customers to go and help them make the cider. Nice.

Bignose & Beard Ciders

We’ll begin with Early Doors, a 5.7% Sussex cider – it’s kind of local and it’s only available in half pint bottles, it seems. It’s tangy and sweet. Everything an east coast cider should be. The name Early Doors is because it’s made with several early season varieties.

Verdict: 3.5/5

One thing about real ciders is that the flavour can change between batches – the London Rooster has both a low mark ad a high mark on The Sense. Every real cider experience is a new adventure. Or said another way, you can’t trust anything I say.

So, let’s move on to the Boars Head

The Boar immediately smells a bit more ‘hospital’. I’m quite glad it’s going to be different.
Ooh, quite perfumed, a little antiseptic. Hints of Dettol with some Old Spice. Or maybe a fruit squash. Now it’s becoming like an elderflower wine. Like a beard – it’s growing on me.

Boars Head, at 6 %, is a lighter flavoured cider , but feels more sophisticated than Early Doors. Apparently salvaged from too many apples that couldn’t be sold to supermarkets, Cox Bramley and Howgate. This one isn’t a cider for everyone, but for those with a big enough nose.

Verdict: 4.5/5

You you never know, the next batch might be completely different.