Sunday, 30 May 2010

Delapre Drinking

It was a lovely day in the warm sunshine at Delapre Abbey this Friday. The festival has really come of age on its new, larger site. I only wish I could have stayed for the evening session and bands. Well done to all the festival organisers and volunteer staff for such a professionally run event. Here's a few pics of the day:

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Beer Tent

The beer has arrived for the 2010 Northamptonshire Beer Festival. That's a lot of beer, and of course cider & perry. Drinkers required from Thursday at 5pm. No experience necessary...

Monday, 24 May 2010

Ciderhouse News - May

Things are really hotting up in the ciderhouse. Not literally of course, a heatwave in the ciderhouse would be very bad news indeed for our ciders and perrys. What I mean is the ciders and perrys are all ready to go, and demand over the next few weeks is very high. Here's a round up of some of the events we'll be supplying:

The cider bar at the Northampton CAMRA Beer Festival has gone from strength to strength since a relatively modest start at Delapre Abbey in 2006. We're sending around 60 gallons of cider and perry this year, which may sound quite a lot, but if last year is anything to go by, don't be too surprised if one or all have sold out before Saturday. That's not to say the cider bar itself will be sold out, there will be plenty of other good ciders and perrys available, but possibly not ours, and my advice is to go on Friday for the very best range. I'll be propping the bar up during the Friday session, and may have something interesting in my pocket for sampling so do stop me and try one if you like. Here's what we'll be sending:

Rockingham Forest Cider (Med/Dry) 7.2%
Rockingham Forest Bulmers Norman Cider (Med) 6.5%
Rockingham Forest Perry (Med/Dry) 5.6%

Newark CAMRA are having their well-established Beer Festival on the same weekend as Northants, which is a shame as I'd have liked to have gone to both. Rockingham Forest Cider and our Blakeney Red Perry will be available here, as well as a range of ciders from our friends in the north Ray & Gail of Torkard Cider.

I don't know many details on this one, but Ray & Gail of the aforementioned Torkard Cider have strongarmed some of our own cider and perry for a Vegan Beer Festival in Nottingham (5th - 6th June). Ciders like ours are of course entirely free of animal derived products, though it's perhaps inevitable that the odd Wasp may have found its way into the juice at some point. We can certainly guarantee that no animals were hurt in the making of our ciders and perrys (just humans), and if anything did die in the making, well, it surely died happy...

Further on down the line, we've noticed that the dates for the Criterion Cider & Perry Festival have been changed to 19th - 25th July. You can't shake us off that easily Russell. Change the dates as often as you like, we'll still be delivering our cider and perry whether you like it or not.

Meanwhile, our cider continues to be available at the Red Lion, Middleton, and Wing Hall Farmshop and Cafe-Bar. We hope to bring you up-to-date news of the forthcoming Welland Valley Beer Festival just as soon as anything interesting reaches our finely tuned ears.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

On the Sauce

Not everyone can enjoy the unique taste of local Northamptonshire cider and perry. For reasons best known to themselves, some people have a strong aversion to alcohol, and yet they'd still like to try our Rockingham Forest Cider. We can understand that, and that's why we've delivered a box of our cider to the Church Bar & Restaurant in Northampton Town.

It won't be available over the bar though, rather in the de-alcoholised form of a cider sauce to accompany Pork Belly on the new Summer menu. Yes, even abstainers and tee-totallers can now go 'on the sauce' as it were. Just don't order it by the pint...

Hen Time

This is our 300th blog post. Thanks for your patience, What better way to celebrate this milestone than with a bit of 'Hen TV' live and direct from our little garden orchard on a balmy May evening. Enjoy...

Monday, 17 May 2010

Get with the Programme

Programmes for this year's Welland Valley Beer Festival (11th-13th June) are now available from the 11 pubs taking part.

I picked mine up for the bargain price of £1.50 from the Red Lion, Middleton. There it is on the right, and that's all I can show you I'm afraid. What I can say is that it's full of lots of interesting 'stuff', and the all important Saturday bus timetable. As usual, the cider list is incomplete, a major omission being ciders and perrys from Rockingham Forest, Ross-on-Wye Cider & Perry, and the Hucknall Cider Co.

More details just as soon as we have them....

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Cakes and Ale (and Cider)

We went for Tea & Cakes at Wing Hall this weekend. And if that sounds like a grand day out, well it was. Very grand!

Wing Hall is an impressive Victorian country house located in the lovely rolling Rutlandshire countryside between Oakham and Uppingham. It's a proper peaceful stretch of countryside too, and the family have exploited this by offering a range of holiday accommodation, most obviously through camping and caravanning in the grounds close to the hall. There's fishing for those that want it, and most importantly from our perspective, a terrific Farm & Village Shop and associated Veranda Cafe.

The shop specialises in a wide range of locally sourced produce, including one of our own favourites, the yummy breads from nearby Hambelton Bakery. It's one of those really useful 'little-bit-of-everything' shops, providing a genuine service to villagers as well as those using the campsite.

Then there's the terrific homemade cakes, generous slices of which can be enjoyed in the shop itself, or on the lovely garden terrace accompanied by the gentle cluck-cluck of free-range hens. We had Chocolate, and very moreish Carrot & Walnut. The Veranda Cafe opens at the weekend from Friday evening, and is fully licenced to serve local ales, wines, and our own Rockingham Forest Cider*. We'd obviously recommend the cider as a perfect accompaniment to the home cooking, and fully intend to try the experience for ourselves in the near future.

*The cider is also available for takeaway from the farmshop.

Friday, 14 May 2010

A Homage to Fromage

Once a year, regular as clockwork, the Swan & Rushes pub in Leicester comes over all cheesy. Big deal I hear you cry, since when did cheese become a big story? Well this is no ordinary collection of cheeses, and here's the clever bit. For every rare and delicious cheese available at this years festival, there's an equally distinctive cider or perry to help wash it down. Ha! Now I've got your attention.

Cheese will be cut, and Cider will flow from 5pm on Friday the 21st May. Note: no unaccompanied Mice admitted.

Cider & Perry

Brain Stormer (Dry)
Brain Drain (Dry)
Chucklehead Farmhouse
Gray’s Med Dry
Green Valley Devon Farmhouse (Med)
Greggs Pit (Perries TBD)
Gwatkins Stoke Red (Sweet)
Gwnt Y Draig Perry
Gwnt Y Draig Pyder
Hartlands Perry
Hecks Kingston Black
Hecks Port Wine of Glastonbury
Hecks Medium
Hecks Blakeney Red Perry
Riches Medium Cider
Ross-on-Wye (various TBD)
Shiny Barrel (Dry)
Westcroft Janet’s Jungle Juice
Westcroft Dry
Wilkins Dry
Winkleigh Sam’s Dry Cider


Anstey Double Worcester
Anstey Smoked Old Worcester
Anstey Old Worcester White
Anstey Snodsbury
Appleby Cheshire
Ashes Wensleydale
Black Crowdie
Blacksticks Blue
Celtic Promise
Cerney Pyramid
Dunsyre Blue
Lincolnshire Poacher
Montgomery Cheddar
Quickes Red Leicester
Simon Weaver Cotswold Blue
Simon Weaver Cotswold Brie
Simon Weaver Herb Brie
Simon Weaver Smoked Brie
Smoked Tain
Stinking Bishop
Webster’s Stilton

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Rutland - Open for Sales

In our efforts to keep the 'cider miles' to an absolute minimum, we've been looking for a local outlet for our ciders and perrys in addition to our 'Cider Tap' the Red Lion, Middleton. Given the choice, we'd much rather sell all of our cider locally rather than send odd barrels to events further afield. Sadly, the vast majority of local pub outlets are either tied on wet sales, or prefer to stick to tried and tested national brands, unwilling to take the risk on small-scale local concerns such as ourselves.

Now I'm well aware that the pub trade is an increasingly difficult one to make a living from. It's perhaps no surprise that licensees have a tendency to play safe with their drinks offering, after all, most of their customers are similarly 'conservative' in their tastes. Nevertheless, it still frustrates me that so few pubs see their cider choice as an opportunity to offer something different, perhaps even something unique to the area, and thereby give themselves a small but important competitive advantage. It's interesting to me that Delicatessens and Farmshops have seen the benefit of offering local, distinctive produce for many years, yet most of the pub trade is still lagging behind in this regard. We've been approached on numerous occasions to supply farmshops and other speciality food outlets, a market we would love to exploit just as soon as the bottling line is up and running. Sadly the same cannot be said for the pub trade, even those which are free to source their cider from wherever they like...

Meanwhile, one local business willing to take the initiative and stock our 'local' cider, is the excellent Wing Hall Farmshop in the pretty Rutland village of Wing. From this weekend our Rockingham Forest Cider will be available for offsales from the farmshop, or by the glass to accompany a meal in the Cafe-Bar. We aim to visit the Farmshop and Cafe this weekend for Shopping, Tea & Cake, and a spot of Free-Range Hen Watching. We'll post a full report of our findings on here.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Newark Beer Fest - Cider List

The cider & perry list for the forthcoming Newark Beer Festival (28th - 30th May) is now available here. Nice to see a few East Midlands producers represented, including Skidbrooke Cyder of Lincolnshire, and Our Friends in the North, Torkard Cider of Nottinghamshire, as well as our own Rockingham Forest Cider and Blakeney Red Perry.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Fill Yer Boots

The Waendel Walk attracts participants from all over the world. Hardly surprising really, the rolling countryside around Wellingborough is just made for walking. After a long day on the hoof there can be nothing better than a cool, refreshing pint of beer or cider, and that's where the Waendel Walk Beer Festival comes in.

I don't know about you, but when I go off route and visit far-flung parts of the world, it's not a pint of the usual I'm after, it's something local, something I can't easily get at home. Beer Festival organiser John Norton (aka Farmer John) agrees, and that's why all the beers, and most of the ciders have been sourced from within 30 miles of Wellingborough. Most of the local Northamptonshire breweries are represented, and for our part we've sent a couple of barrels of Rockingham Forest Cider (7.2%), and a couple more of Blakeney Red Perry (6%). In addition there will be cider from Eve's of Kettering, and Westons Herefordshire Country Perry.

After dropping the barrels off, we had a swift half in the local CAMRA award winning Coach & Horses. This was our first time at the Coach & Horses, and I was suitably impressed. Festooned with interesting breweriana, and not a hint of the shabbiness you find in some 'real ale' pubs. The bar offering was good too, I had something tasty from Summerskills of Devon, whilst the missus enjoyed a Webb Ellis Bitter from the Rugby Brewing Co. A real cider is also available, but the strikingly orange Thatchers Cheddar Valley is really not to my taste! There's a pleasant looking garden at the rear of the pub too, just the job for when the hot Summer finally arrives...

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Time for Bread

It's National Bread Week.... Ho-Hum!

Apparently we're supposed to celebrate this important national event by buying trolley-loads of nasty white-sliced 'Bread', and thinking really hard about the 'roll' (ha-ha!) that this (ahem!) 'Bread' plays in our excessively processed, nutritionally challenged lives. Right-O!

Well stuff that, we're doing our bit for bread by going the extra mile and making real, tasty, proper Cider & Cheese Bread, with real cider, and real cheese. Bread, Cider, and Cheese are of course a classic combination, and the very heart of a proper Ploughman's (of which I have very strong opinions... Celery! Sweet Peppers! Fruit!.... No!). So combining the three elements in one delicious home-baked loaf is a no-brainer really. Here's the recipe in American/Irish measures, which seems to suit baking more than weights in my opinion:

One Cup Strong White Flour
One Cup Strong Wholemeal Flour
One Cup Grated Cheese
Tbsp Vegetable Oil
Pinch of Salt
Tsp Dried Yeast
3/4 Cup Cider

I'd be lying if I said we did the whole mixing and kneading thing. In reality, all the ingredients went into a bread maker, with a 5 minute extra kneed when the machine had done its thing...

A word about the ingredients. We used Claybrooke Mill flour, because we've tried the rest*, and now we stick with the best. The cider was a bottle of Spalding Scrumpy Yellowbelly Cider, a smooth, clean, very well made Eastern Counties style cider from... erm... Spalding. Quite dry, which is what we wanted for this bread. The cheese was a delicious French Comte, sweet and nutty like a grown-up Emmental.

So how did it taste? Absolutely bloomin' delicious actually. Very cheesy, with a lovely tangy fruitiness from the cider. Lacking in imagination as we are, we enjoyed the bread fresh from the oven with a glass of cider, and a slice of cheese... but if pushed for a recommendation, I'd say try it with a good homemade Winter soup.

*Obviously we haven't tried 'all' the rest, but it's flour we're talking about here, not chocolate!

All of a Twitter

It was International Dawn Chorus Day today. We celebrated by laying in late with the window open, watching the bird life flittering and twittering about the garden, and what a lot of birds!

Blackbirds are back in force, fighting, mating, and building nests in the most inconvenient locations. Several parts of the garden are now practically no-go zones, with a pair of Blue Tits nesting in the dry-stone wall, and Blackbirds returning to the willow trellising without a thought for how vulnerable to cats they'll be there. We've done our best to secure the area, let's hope it's enough.

Gold Finches are fairly common garden birds, but their uncommonly beautiful plumage make them a rare treat for us. A pair have been visiting the garden for the last few days, and I've been determined to catch a photograph of them at play. Note to self: Must get a decent zoom lens.

As for the birdsong, it's been deafening, with one call standing out from the crowd. For the first time this year a Cuckoo has been calling nearby, a welcome visitor as the RSPB have now given this bird Red Status due to a recent sharp decline in numbers.

Interestingly, the Cuckoo call is also the traditional signal that things have reached maturity in the ciderhouse. We've already broached our first cask, but it was nice to hear natures own confirmation that the season is now underway, particularly on the day that folk from Newark CAMRA are coming to collect cider and perry for their festival.