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

Headless Man

I’m mincing down Stoke Newington High Street and my friend points out a new-fangled ‘bottle bar’. Mother Kelly’s.Mother Kellys

It used to be a nice toy shop, where I’d go to buy gifts for a burgeoning population of friends’ children. Anyway, that place closed down, and I expected the site to become another on-trend coffee shop, but now I see it has, thankfully, turned into a bottle shop. Praise the Lord. Another small victory for responsible alcoholism.

Though they mainly do beers, down the back passage, they do have a reasonable array of ciders and perries. It’s like being a kid in Fenwick’s toy department at Christmas again. I don’t know what to pick up first.Mother Kellys Ciders

It is still my favourite toy shop.

My friend laughs at the Headless Man cider. After some tough decisions, I walk away with three bottles, including a Headless Man. The staff are friendly, I now also have a loyalty card! There’s a small gaggle of folks enjoying a beer at the table in the front of the shop, which serves as a kind of tiny bar.
At £4 a bottle, (for the cider – some big bottles of beer are over £20), you’re paying pub prices, but it’s good stuff, often from far-away places, like Belgium.

Headless Man comeas all the way from Ross Ciders in Herefordshire. I take him home, put the telly on, and we watch the football together. Well, I do, he doesn’t have a head. Headless Man is fragrant, like a nice cologne. I’m thinking around the level of Acqua di Parma, rather than Lynx. It smells sweet but oakey. Dry but toffee-like, almost chocolatey.Headless-Man

In fact, this is what I’d imagine what whiskey would taste like, if I liked whisky. Unfortunaely, whisky tastes like wino vomit. Headless Man is warming and sweet, but gob-stripingly dry and as it warms up, it becomes more apply, tingly on the lips.

I begin to wonder why the ‘man’ is headless. Maybe a local myth? Maybe after too much Ross-on-Wye cider one evening, someone got lashed and robbed the head off a sculpture? At 6.4%, it has the potential. I just hope I won’t lose my mind as well.

Verdict: 4.5/5

a fine malt

Snails Bank at the Euston Cider Tap

I’ve been walking round London town, looking at stuff all day – photos and the like, pretending to be cultured. My lungs will be black by now, so I’d best get some antioxidants.

The handiest place for a pint of antioxidants in the Euston locale, is the Euston Cider Tap. It’s a bright day, as I wonder through the towers and traffic of Euston. Oh look, there’s the BT tower!

The cider menu, chalked up on the back wall, lists what’s available today. I’m going to go for the Snails Bank, it’s still, medium, and I haven’t yet tried it. “Cash only bar” is painted on the counter in Tipp-Ex, so I pay my four quid, (Cheap for London), and head outside. It’s a Saturday afternoon, so still too early for the ravers to be out and there’s plenty of room outside. A nice day to sit and sup and breathe in the nitrous oxide from the Euston Road.

I take a pew amongst the reasonably civilised, still-sober cider drinkers, and see that my Snails Bank looks, by far, the most mental drink at the table – like a pint of thick, frothy piss. Everyone else is on pale, sugar water. Snails Bank is an opaque, dark orange colour, and though it’s supposed to be a still cider, it came out with a bit of head on it. Snails_Bank (3 of 4)

Snails Bank is a 5.2% cider, I’m expecting it to be rough and dry, but it tastes as caramel as it looks. Not too sweet, but it’s cider apples dipped in honey. Actually a very mild flavour, a smokey-sunshine taste. That’s my lungs fixed, then.

A shaven-headed Harley fan and his lady, sporting his-and-hers Harley jackets, cross the road towards us. Cider drinkers, I bet. They return to the tables with some proper-looking cider. I notice the chap next to me is reading “Suicide, a modern obsession“. I’ll recommend the barman give him a plastic glass next time, just in case.

Snail’s Bank website tells me that this is a Herefordshire cider. It’s called the Appley Dappley, which adds “the more contemporary Russet apple” to the blend. They’re aiming traditional ciders at modern tastes. I can see where they’re coming from and I’d recommend this as an easy drinking cider, if cider rookies can get past the initial shock of the colour. Snails Bank also make a keg cider, which they claim is made of pure pressed apple juice. I’d like to have a go on that!

Via my eavesdropping, I find out the Harley fan is down from the Midlands, to fix his sister’s curtain rail. A string of winos file past, asking for spare change. The suicidal gives them all a bit of change, he seems a kind man. Well I suppose he won’t need it where he’s going.

Snails_Bank (4 of 4)

The only printable bit of graffiti

I’m actually surprised by the mixture of drinkers at the Cider Tap, I expected there’s be more elderly, toothless men. However, now I have the taste for something stronger, something that might knock my teeth out. I’m about to go and ask what is the worst cider on the menu, when a bunch of young lovers arrive, which reminds me I’m old and alone, so I decide to leave it for another day. A quick visit to the unisex bog, before getting on the bus, offers several minutes of entertainment, in the form of insults, and advice. Most are not printable here.

Verdict: 4/5

Severn Scrumpy at The Euston Cider Tap

I’ve been set loose on a Thursday afternoon, with nothing better to do than sniff out a few good ciders. After seeking out The Euston Cider Tap, I’m deciding on the second of my five-a-day. In fact, there’s a lot of evidence that proper cider is high in easily-absorbable antioxidants. Enough of the science, let’s get on with it.

There’s now a few old dears inside, in pastel anoraks seemingly waiting for a train, while the bearded barman plays ‘The Ace of Severn ScrumpySpades’ at a safe level over the sound system. I opt for a traditional-sounding Severn Scrumpy. The beard offers me a taste – a sign that this one will certainly be something to write about. I decline the sample, and request to proceed, immediately,  with the immersive experience.

BOOM! It’s like drinking smoke machine liquid, (try Googling ‘fog juice’). Severn Scrumpy still bears enough sweetness and dryness to make it bearable, but this cider has spent a week at reading Festival, standing next to a bonfire, holding a milk jug full of scrumpy, while some hoodied crusty chucks pieces of smashed up guitar onto the fire.

I take another bite of the charred apple, it’s starting to burn my throat now. The 6.3% Gloucestershire cider is not for the faint-hearted, but a treacly taste shines through and draws me on, through the thick smoke of the dance floor. The old chap in the corner who raises his eyebrows every time I glance over, is waiting for his chum, who is tottering down the steep spiral staircase. I realise the toilets must be up there – probably not the safest toilet-route in a proper cider bar. I sit back and savour a cider that must certainly be difficult to find in these parts, and read about cider-making in French, while I wait for the nosebleed to arrive. Fouloir a vendanges….mmm…fog juice….

Verdict: 2.5/5 it’s an experience

Charrington’s Queen of Cox

I’m in the poshest supermarket I’ve ever been in. There’s a self-serve patisserie at the door and eight different types of pesto. It’s Spar in Walthamstow village. Who’d have thought it?

This place is full of babied people. With a constant flow of buggies into The Castle pub, I had to elbow some bint in the face, to get my nephew to the front of the crowd to watch the impromptu ukulele group. On leaving the pub, the same river of buggies leads us from the pub to Spar. I avoid the green pea pesto and seek out the booze fridge. There must be some good ones in here, I can’t imagine these folks drinking Strongbow Super or Lech. If you like those drinks, check out this blog for tramps.

I find a reasonable selection of ciders, and I’m drawn to the bottles of Charringtons. They sport very classy labels: a gilded griffin rampant, nobly holds an apple on the front of the Queen of Cox, Kent Craft Cider. The label is suggestive of royalty, while avoiding the obvious Queen of Cox innuendos. Ooh, I say.Charringtons

It’s the first use of the phrase ‘craft cider’ that I’ve seen on a bottle, so I expect this is very fashionable cider. The word ‘craft’ is now often used to lure in people with large beards and forearm tattoos.

Fuck me! £5.95 a bottle?! (500ml). It had better be good!

We squeeze the booze, lingonberry tartlets, thrice-fried broccoli pesto and pram onto the bus and head back to base to play cars with the nephew.

Now the little one has gone to bed and the pesto is in the bin, it’s time for the cider to come out, well, cars and booze just don’t mix. I’m struck by how sweet the cider is, but cox is a dessert apple variety, which produces a sweeter cider. It’s quite fizzy, but has some interesting notes: herbs, violet, vegetables, elderflower: a veritable English walled garden in a bottle. However, my drinking buddy thinks it tastes like White Lightning mixed with champagne.

The 6.3% cider is made on the Charrington Cryals estate in Kent. It’s a bit sweet for me, but it’s certainly a queen of dessert apple cider, and I’m warming to it. Queen of Cox: sweet, fruity, British and ripe with innuendo– just like Barbara Windsor, you have to be royalty to afford this.

Verdict: 3.5/5

Cider Crawl, North Central London. Episode 3: Euston Cider Tap

I’m making my way though Euston train station, on a cider crawl. This may be the first ever cider crawl, in fact, I’ll trade mark the term. I’m on a Cider Crawl® . I’m making my way through Euston Station, with a quick stop for my ciderkick to get some plasters – his new shoes are killing him. Always wear sensible shoes when out on an all-day lashing. You could even buy this sensible pair, called Marc.

The Euston Cider Tap is part of a pair of little pubs, housed within the old ticket offices of the first Euston station. I won’t describe it too much, as you can read more about it on this previous post. Go on, it’s quite good.Euston Cider tap

We arrive at the Tap at twilight, though that is of no significance to this post. We choose from the wide range of ciders chalked up on the blackboard. There’s more scrump in here than you can shake a Tom Putt at. I decide on the London Cider “Bushpig”, my ciderkick chooses the Twisted Cider “Misty“.

We translocate to one of the tall benches within the bar. the Bushpig, like its cuddly name, is fragrant, like apricots in summer picnic. I see the my ciderkick’s face turning at the taste of the misty. We make a swap and he’s much more content with the Bushpig. Unlike the summery cider, Misty feels more like a spicy winter drink. Like a weird winter candle scent, it’s dry, herby, coriander, tomato vine, mildew, burned stuff… I can’t quite put my.. I know! It’s like when, on bonfire night, your mam can’t afford a pumpkin, so you have to make a hallowe’en lantern with a  swede. Then it’s too small for the candle, so the top gets burnt. Misty tastes like that smell.

Euston Cider Tap InsideMisty is heavier on the nose than the Bushpig, which, despite its name, does not smell much at all. By heavier, I mean minging. There’s a lot going on in that mist. It’s made with all local (Dorset) apples, and the Twisted strapline is “Don’t get Wasted, get Twisted’. ‘Don’t get Pisseded’, would also rhyme.

It’s Good Friday, and it’s a bit quiet round these parts, but is surprisingly full in this cosy little bar. I observe the barman telling a punter what ciders are on offer. I hear an American accent in reply, ‘That doesn’t mean anything to me’. He asks for something apply, something sweet. Halves please. Another customer arrives, just down from Royston Vasey. He asks for anything weak. The barman points at me.

I think people are missing the point of The Cider Tap. Hanging around a bus station, drinking weak, sweet cider is what 14 year-olds do. If you come to the Tap, you really have to get into the spirit of things and try a proper pint. So, rather than watch a load of middle aged men looking like they’ve just tried an oyster for the first time, we drink up and knob off through the dim, drizzly Fitzrovian streets, heading towards our next Cider Crawl® target: Oxford Street and The Green Man.

Verdict: 5:5

A dedicated cider bar, in a disused ticket office outside Euston bus station? You couldn’t make this stuff up!