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.

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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

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