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

Advertisements

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.

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.

Verdict
2/5

I’ll still drink it

My apologies for the “sedimental” pun

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.
Dunno.

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-Vase

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

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

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