This weekend, I was introduced to a veritable treasure chest of ciders at the Hebden Bridge Parcel Office Bar. I’d seen Hebden Bridge on the telly, hearing it is a hotpot of alternative types. And now, with it’s own pop-up cider bar, this little mill town was suddenly at the top of my list of holiday hotspots. Checking out the website, my local guide and I see it’s only open 4-9pm (Fri and Sat, 3-8pm Sun).
One didn’t have to toddle far to get to the old Parcel Office, which is taken over by the Real Cider Company. This quaint little pub was fitted out in a traditional style, with just a few tables, but the biggest stack of boxed scrumpies you ever did see, plus a metre-wide selection of bottled real ciders. I walked around in a circle twice, on arrival, just wondering where to start!
After carefully considering each bottle, I decided to start with a ‘northern’ cider, seeing as I was in the north, and requested the Ampleforth Abbey ‘traditional North Yorkshire’ cider at 6.5% (though their website claims 8.3%).
North Yorkshire is a bit further north than the usual cider-making counties of the warm, wet West Countries and warm, drier East Anglia. Still, they claim that they have over 40 varieties of eating and cooking apple in their century-old orchard. Well, I suppose those monks have to fill their time somehow. And what better way to give thanks to God?
On the required visual inspection, this is a lightly sparkling cider, with a reassuringly dark golden apple colour. Then a sniff. There’s definitely apples in there and a slightly floral bouquet. maybe it’s just because I’m in the countryside. The protocol of looking at and sniffing cider, can take as long as you want. I recommend 4 seconds
BANG! This has a tangy kick. Those cheeky monks like a thrill. However, the taste quickly softens to a sharp, but not a dry taste, it has some sweetness to it. My drinking compatriot tries a sip too, and her gums peel back before quickly returning to the comfort of her elderflower cider.
This cider is made by men, for men. Those Benedictines have come up with a cider that is at first, rather tarty, then quickly shows it’s sweeter side and eventually goes down well.
Now, looking around the Parcel Office, I’m like a kid in a sweet shop. Unfortunately, you can’t get a 10pence mix-up (probably due to inflation) but the nice chaps behind the bar do offer tasters…