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.


Giggler Suffolk Cider

I’ve been out with work at the Taproom, Islington. I got a taste for the cider; a ‘safety third’ as I like to call it. 1 or 2 – you wake up in the early hours and can’t get back to sleep. 3-4: just enough to send you off into a drunken stupor.

My colleague, Ollie, has given me a bottle of Giggler cider, after his trip home. It’s from the Suffolk coast, so probably quite a sweet one. Oh, after I open it, I see that one should pour gently to avoid the sediment. Nowt wrong with a bit of sediment. In fact it’s making me sedimental!
Nice, simple logo. I wonder what will make me Giggle about it.

Giggler Cider

The original photo was corrupted, but you can hardly tell, with this cleverly blown-up thumbnail

Looking at this, it’s a 2013 vintage, which makes me wonder if it’s new, or has it been sitting on the shelf for four years? Bottle conditioned though, but without a pop, this one needs a bottle opener, not a corkscrew.

It’s pale, hazy and slightly sparkling.
Wow, the smell is like a strage wee. Something of boiled vegetables in this one. Maybe a bit of broccoli that’s been burned round the edges.
I can almost taste it, yes, I’ve tasted it before. Maybe it’s… yes, it’s echinacea. Proper echinacea is foul stuff, but it keeps you healthy. Apparently. Well, I’ve always said, alcohol is the cure of all ills.

So, what’s to giggle about?
The peaty, toilet smell?
The Holland and Barret health food store taste?
Nope, probably the 5.9%.
I think the good folk of Suff have created some kind of health-tea cider.

Unfortunately, the photo I take has become corrupted and I’m unable to retrieve the full file. However, I’ve cleverly blown up the thumbnail and added a logo, so I don’t think anyone will notice.

Four years old. I try to think back to what I was doing four years ago. Probably starting this cider blog! What was happening in Suffolk four years ago –

that’s what I should be worrying about. Someone’s gone and laced that orchard with echinacea. At least I won’t have a cold for the next four years.


I’ll still drink it

My apologies for the “sedimental” pun

Oliver’s Bottle Conditioned Medium 2014

It was my birthday recently. Yep, hooray for me.
It’s been an extended birthday – today I was treated to lunch while watching a funeral procession and tonight I popped down the old Royal Opera House for a seat in the expensive bit, to watch some Russian ballet. Nice.

Olivers Bottle Conditioned Cider

I get home and it still feels like my birthday. More accurately, I’m off on holiday in a few days and I still have some bottles of birthday cider in the fridge – wouldn’t want them to go off while i’m gone, so now is a perfect time to put them to use.

Another of Oliver’s ciders, that’s two in a row! They’re doing well on ‘The Sense’. Having partaken in some cultural fineries today, the bottle-conditioned Oliver’s is the perfect tipple to end the day.

It’s a big bottle so I can pretend it’s champagne. I get some scissors to untwist the cork cage, as it’s made of painfully thin wire. The cork slowly slides up and out, like a mini volcano, or a slow dog poo, releasing a loud pop as it is egested from the bottle.

The colour is like strong and hazy urine. Slightly fizzy, with only naturally occuring sulphites and at 4% no hangover for me tomorrow!

I decant Herefordshire’s finest into a fine white wine glass, swirl it round a bit, sniff it, raise my little pinky and chug the lot.
Top notch.

There’s a woody smell to it, but less like an old barn, more like a piece of vintage mahogany. Perhaps the inside of a 17th century harpsichord. I feel culture oozing out of my pores now, darling, but then it is quite a humid night.

Resisiting the urge to don my red trousers and throw a cashmere sweater over my shoulders, I carry on with the trial of Oliver. There’s something floral about the smell at first. Maybe it’s left over from the bouquet I robbed off the stage after the final curtain.
After that, it’s rather dry with a burnt taste. A little bit tongue-stripping, but not in a bad way. Even so dry that it sometimes tastes powdery.
This would make a perfect interval alternative to an expensive glass of wine. It looks posh, it’s not going to get you so wankered that you start heckling the ballet dancers, and it takes a cultured cider drinker to appreciate it. I should know.

I should know, but I don’t.

I wonder if ballet dancers get bad toes in later life. I also wonder if people in the 1800s were better than modern audiences at knowing when and when not to clap. It’s nice for the performers to receive impromptu applause for something the crowd admires, but I feel sorry for the lone clapper when no one follows him.
In this world there are clap leaders and clap followers.
Do you have what it takes to give the first clap?

Loose another two pounds and for heaven’s sake, Emilia, keep your toes pointed!

Oliver’s At The Hop

I’ve been off to see Mother Kelly again.
I’ve almost got enough stamps to have a free bottle!

Though their cider selection seems to have been reduced in size, I’ve found one that is At The Hop Ciderinfused with hops. That sounds interesting. A beer-flavoured cider. Cibeer?
It looks like a beer bottle too. Hey, why not try to add beer to everything? Beer cornflakes. Beer milk.

Beer cheese!
I decide to food-pair this one with a mini cheddar cheese, made with Black Sheep Riggwelter ale, from Morrisons. Nice.

The 5.5% cider is from Olivers, in Herefordshire .
It’s quite a sharp taste. A very oaky, fruity smell. Sharp but sweet, and dry. Ah, there’s the bitterness of the hops, like a very posh snakebite.
The cheddar is very soft, and crumbles everywhere, I should have used a spoon! I can’t taste the ale in it though.

At The Hop is a pleasant cider. With eye-watering sharpness, it might be very sweet, but tempering it with the hops gives it a wonderful tang. I don’t thnk this one is illegal, either, though I’m not sure snakebite is actually illegal. Maybe that was a rumour.

Apparently, (according to the bottle label) ‘it was tradition to follow a hop yard by planting a cider apple orchard’. At The Hop uses English ‘Cascade’ hops and Czech ‘Kazbek’ hops, too. It burns the throat as it goes down, (in a nice way) with a powerfully sweet and oaky smell. It feels like I’ve been smoking this one, like a cider vape thing.

Thankfuly, this is much more a cider than a beer, but an interesting blend. What next, vodka cider? Oh, I just found out a snakebite and black with vodka is called a ‘Turbo Diesel’. Now there’s an idea for a post!

Verdict: 3/5

Gwatkins Stoke Red Dessert Cider

I was first given this cider at my sister’s birthday party last year. Unfortunately, writing about cider is an unsociable task, and when others are around, one has to pay more attention to the people than the cider. Bummer. All I can remember from last time is that my dad thought it tasted like Woodpeckehhh!

I’ve now received another bottle.

This 7.4% Herefordshire cider was found in Pantry & Co, Highams Park. Stoke-Red-Cider

Stoke Red has a rather apply taste, very sweet, with a dryness to it that tickles the back of my throat. Honey and nettles—sounds like the worst cough sweet but it’s a very drinkable cider. I’m not sure what nettles taste like.

I learn that the Stoke Red is a very late season apple, but of very high quality in the cider world. So. this one’s a single-varietal cider. It’s labelled dessert cider on the bottle, though I can’t find evidence that Stoke Red apples are used as anything other than cider apples (unlike dessert apples, like, um, Granny Smiths or whatever). Still, cider makes a lovely dessert after any meal. It’s best poured over treacle pudding, or why not have it with jelly? If you’re hosting a dinner party and you want to really impress, I recommend filling a bucket with dessert cider and floating a load of meringues on it. Geet posh as owt, man!

Gwatkins is a Heredfordshire-based cider farm. However, the Stoke Red bottle you see on their website is not the one you find in Highams Park. You can do a lot with the Stoke Red bottle you find in Highams Park: vase; light shade; battle club…

Here’s two I made earlier.

Verdict: 4/5


Stoke Red bottles as vases. Ahh, lovely

Two French Brothers. Normandy vs Breton

Our IT guy has been on a trip to France. Even while he was on holiday, he thought about me, (I do call him often), and returned with two bottles of French cidre. He did admit that one might be a bit ‘local supermarket’ and the other is a bit posher.

They both come in very similar, corked bottles. First up will be La Fauconneire Cidre de Normandie. Norman from the falconry is a 5% brut, (dry), cider.


Cidre de Normandie

Yes, it’s supermarket style. Golden, clear and slightly sparkling. Norman smells a bit like toffee and sherry, with a hint of second-hand shop. Maybe a touch of wee, too. The aftertaste is dusty and stale, like being in a theatre, while wearing old leather.

Norman doesn’t have a website.
Old Skool.

Next up is Les Trois Feres Jan. That’s French talk for Three Brothers John. This one ain’t a le Tesco special, no, this one has won the gold medal from the Breton Ciderical House. I’d like to work there! No bright colours here – the John brothers clothe themselves in subtle, earthy tones, with an accent of gold and live in a chateau. Château de Lézergué, to be accurate.


Les Trois Freres Jan

Like its poorer cousin, it still comes with a cork. Reasonably similar in colour and taste, although the Johns lack the mouldy council flat taste. This one smells of velvet curtains and grand pianos, and expensive-looking vases in the hallway, and velvety-soft, toilet paper, with the tip turned into a point.

At 4.5%, it relies more on taste than strength, like myself.

It tastes a bit more healthy. You can tell by the freshly chopped apples in the background. If you look carefully, you can also see an onion and garlic bulb. That means it’s very French. I only had a red onion, but that’s a sign of decadence.

Hold up, Brother John, I spot a bit of dustiness in there! Maybe the cleaner hasn’t been in this week? Or maybe there’s not so much difference between these two cousins. Perhaps Norman made a bad decision, which spiralled out of control and fell on bad times, or maybe Brother John is all heirs and graces, and is really just chip butties and Skol in front of the telly, in his duds.
When no one is looking.

Just like all humans came from the Rift Valley 70,000 years ago, all apples descended from the same tree in Georgia, apparently. Norman and John are from the same tree.

      But one’s a bit crap.

Verdict: Norman 2.5/5, The Johns 4/5

Rich’s Farmhouse Dry, at the Queen’s Head

I’m back at the Queens Head, near Kings Cross, London. It’s a lovely, but blowy Sunday afternoon and I’m meeting my friend who likes a whisky. I know this is a good pub for a cider, but apparently also for whisky. I hate whisky, though.

I arrive to find an eclectic bunch of older folks and a band is setting up. It’s a pretty chilled out place. The barmaid talks me through the boxes of cider, sitting behind the bar, and I decide on the Rich’s Farmhouse, a dry, 6%. It seems to be the last of the box and, like a nurse helping an old man pee, the barmaid gets a collague to help squeeze and shake the last dribbles of thick, orange fluid from the spout, before shoving the wrinkled, empty sack back through the little hole.
£4.20. Not bad for a pint of grandad’s finest in this part of the world.

I check for floating things, and take the glass out back, to the tiny beer ‘garden’. I feel like I’m at an interview, sat in the centre of the table, with a big graffiti queen staring down my pint. The toilet windows open onto this little yard, so the scent of urinal cakes should perfectly complement my cloudy sample.

Rich’s is a Somerset cider, from a family-run orchard. This dry is very dry, like sandpaper. Initially, not much of a taste – not sweet enough for me, but this is where one can really pay attention, reaching an almost medatative state, focusing intently on the flavours.
And try not to fall over.
Having a sniff and a gargle, the imagination kicks in. I can detect caramel, nettles…. well, what I imagine nettles taste like, probably more like the rough texture of nettles. A deep vegetation taste, bitter like dandelion. Again, I’ve never tried dandelion, apparently nettles and dendelion are both edible and healthy foods, but in my mind it’s like eating grass.

I knew I’d tried Rich’s Farmhouse before, but it ws the sweet one, last time. This time, it’s the complete opposite. Next time, it will be the medium. Should be perfect!

The singing has started up now, from inside. The clouds are gathering and my drinking buddy is on her way, probably time to head inside. Just time enough to nip to the loo and recreate the scene from the old people’s home. Hopefully I won’t need the help of a nurse, at least not after the first pint!

Verdict: 3/5