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

Ryan's Bar Facade

Bad Apple at Ryan’s N16

I’m waltzing round Stoke Newington, looking for somewhere with Sky Sports. And Cider

Past the KFC that used to be a pub many years ago, past the Tea House, that used to be a pub until a year ago, past the hour long queue of people waiting to get into the on-trend Good Egg coffee shop, even though there’s another twenty, (I counted them), places you can have coffee on this street, not to mention countless others round the corner, on the High Street! Good Egg coffee must be fucking amazing!

The cloud is burning off, and I’m getting a thirst on. I notice that Ryan’s has reopened. What used to be a fairly traditional Irish pub, with some live gigs in the basement and a massive beer garden out back, has recently had a facelift and is now a slick, dark bar inside, with the same beer garden outside.

Ryan's Bar Facade

Ryan’s: Keeping Stoke Newington drunk, since 1996

It does have a sports screen.
It does have cider.

The staff are friendly, well it is still early afternoon. The barman recommends the Bad apple cider and offers a taster, but I opt to go straight for the main course: a pint.

Bad Apple CiderIn a branded glass, looking very ‘bad’ and apply, Bad Apple is a lightly sparkling golden orange cider. The taste is not far from a usual keg cider, medium sweet, but with more of refreshing bite of sharpness. It’s bad in a good way, probably melting my teeth. There’s a little of a dessert apple to it as well. Maybe a little too sweet.

I hoped Ryan’s still has live music, open mic night was a laugh in the basement. They seem to have done away with many of the seats upstairs, standing room, maybe, but they do advertise their basement as available for gigis, quoting an impressive array of musical equipment, that reads like a roadie’s wedding list.

It seems they also do food now, with a Thai menu, but also, some locally-named burgers.

Ryans N16 Beer Garden
Ryan’s beer garden stretches into the horizon
Ryan's Bus

An evil ghost, drives the Ryan’s Real Ale Bus

 

 

 

 

 

 

The beer garden is much the same as it was, a vast tract of picnic benches, beneath a few trees. It’s a huge garden – always plenty of space and beneath some large trees. The neighbours need to tidy their garden up, though, a right mess! There’s a strange London Bus painted on the side of the fence, in which a sinister, smiling old man requests everyone to come aboard. Maybe the Bad Apple is taking effect, but as I feel his gaze caressing my neck, I decide I’d better get back inside, to the sports screen.

I hope I won’t have nightmares

Verdict: 2.5/5

(for the cider, not the venue)

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