The sun is setting over The Meadows, and an African drum band is practising next to some acrobats and a woman in a bowler hat, who is rolling colourful balls up her arms. Like circus folk do. There’s also the odd alcoholic staggering round, with a can of Tennents and a sleeping bag.
I’ve an hour to kill before the gig at George Heriot’s School (BBC venue). Thankfully, a couple of cider fans have created a handy cider venue map for just such an occasion. I check out the Edinburgh Cider View map and head for the Jolly Judge. There’s not much on the website of this pub, but I head up the Royal Mile, and down one of the little passageways, and descend the steps, to a low-ceilinged, cosy pub. It’s not that big, but there’s enough room this time.
I’d attempted this pub last year, but on a hot day, and being quite busy, thought better of it. The Cider View tells me that there should be some real ciders on, here. I see the boxes at the end of the bar, they have Morningcider! I’ve read about this one. It is also coincidence that I’m staying in Morningside, the well-to-do suburb of Edinburgh, and namesake of this cider. It’s a must-see, then.
I ask for the Morningcider, but I’m saddened to hear that it may be off. The barman seems dubious about its quality and allows me a taste, telling me he’s “been told it’s fine”. It does look horrendous, but, “It tastes ok”, I say, after a sip of deep brown, opaque liquid, so I order a pint. It didn’t look like this in the photos. I take the glass of what looks like sewage water, over to a table, wondering if I will be producing something similar, myself, in the morning. Well, there’s only one way to find out!
It has a ripe smell, like a septic tank in a forest. But I’m determined to finish it. There’s something delicate under the dark mask and at least it will make a good story. You wouldn’t get this with a Strongbow, this looks set to be a proper festival experience, even if it may be my last. At least I’ll die happy. And probably televised, live on the BBC.
After the initial farmyard taste, it’s quite a pleasant cider, a little bit of dry, just enough sweet and the slightest of stings to the aftertaste- perfectly blended, I’d say – just the wrong side of dysentery brown. It reminds me of a crab apple cider I once tried. Proper home made stuff, in fact, Morningcider is picked from fallen apples of gardens. I can taste the Auld Reekie, however, it does make a change from the sweeter, dessert apple-style ciders that normally seem to come out of Scotland. Made with traditional, ‘heritage’ Scottish cider apples, I’m apparently supporting the ciderisation of Scotland. I reckon this unfortunate batch must have been oxidised, or something scientific like that. Where’s Brian Cox when you need him?
There’s a good mix of people in here, and colourfully painted ceilings. It’s filling up now, I’m sitting between some Americans and some Germans. Edinburgh, at festival time, brings the world together. My glass should be enough to start a conversation, but no one seems to notice that I’m drinking a pint of ditchwater. Probably too polite to give a second look, or maybe it just looks like a watered-down stout. Well, £3.50 isn’t bad for a 5% Scottish cider from John Hancox. Cheers, Mr Hancox.
I’m wondering where the toilets are, my dad always said cider was “gut-rot”. Though he also says it’s a good thirst quencher. It depends if I’m drinking it, or he is. An exhausted looking woman comes down the stairs. I presume the toilets are up that way, I also wonder if she’d just had a Morningcider, too.
Twenty minutes to go. Best head up the stairs and bag a space at this gig. A strange warm feeling is spreading across my midriff….
……if I close my eyes