Friday, 27 August 2010

Peterborough Perry Festival

Well that was a wet one. The rain fell without break from the moment I alighted at Peterborough bus station, until our belated delivery of cider to the Red Lion back home in Middleton several hours later. As the waters rose, and the slightly bored food vendors sank into the mud, our merry band clung tenaciously to the Cider & Perry Bar (enter festival, first on the right).

It's rare indeed to find a festival so well stocked with decent Perrys that the Ciders don't even get a look in. I'm pretty fussy in my drinking, and if there's not enough tubs of genuinely Dry or Medium/Dry on offer, I'll resort to the worthy-but-dull offerings of the Malt'n'Hop variety. No such problems here. By my (slightly addled) reckoning, I tried 8 different Perrys, none of which were too sweet, along with a few sips begged from other peoples glasses along the way. Worthy of mention were a Moorcroft from Malvern Magic, Greggs Pitt Aylton Red & Blakeney Blend, and the Ross-on-Wye Cider & Perry Co, all from Herefordshire. But the pick of the bunch for me was a properly dry Springherne Perry, also from Ross-on-Wye, and the surprise winner was New Forest Perry, from well outside the traditional Perry making area, in deepest Hampshire. Juicy, well balanced, some tannin and a little Rum if my senses don't deceive me.

Here's a few pics from the festival:

Bar staff were friendly and efficient, moving far too fast to catch on camera

Stillages groaning under the weight of all the ciders I didn't get a chance to try

CAMRA supports Real Cider & Perry. Paul merely supports his glass of Cider

Torkard Cider's Ray Blockley adopts a typical 'Northern' pose whilst surveying a Red Lion Beer & Cider Festival poster

Oh! Almost forgot. Freeth stepped on a Guide Dog. Sadly no pictures are available...

Two Birds, One Egg

It's been a day of high emotion at Cider HQ today. Chucky-Egg, the newest member of the Rockingham Forest Cider Flock, officialy came of age today, laying her very first, perfect little egg. Well done Chucky, you're truly a Hen now.

One down-side to the boost in egg production has been the relentless decimation of what was promising to be a very good grape crop. It's perhaps unfortunate that grapes are such toothsome, beak-size treats, made worse by Karens 'training' of the hens with Raisin-treats. These hens have a taste for grapes, and what they don't wolf down is soon polished off by the Wasps. I really must be more vigilant with the netting next year, and fingers crossed they never get the taste for apples!

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Ciders We Like - Pts 1, 2, & 3

What could be better on a sunny Summer afternoon, than time spent sipping & sampling at a local pub Beer Festival. Not much I hear you say. Well how about if the promised beer festival only goes and turns out to be a bloomin' Cider Festival. Yay-Hay-Hay!

Top Leicester pub The Western had billed their latest weekend event a Summer Holiday Beer Festival. True, there were a few beers on offer, but a glance to the right will show that it was actually Cider & Perry that had the top billing. Result!

Not everything was worth travelling all the way to Leicester for, but there was just about enough to make the journey worthwhile. I found the Swallowfield Dabinett & Browns a very well balanced cider, as was the Penalt Capsy Wennet. The cider of the festival for me by a country mile was from Green Valley of Devon, a former CAMRA award winner, and on this form understandably so. A really deep, rich and juicy flavour, with just the right amount of Rum finish (subtle, not in-your-face). The sweetness is really well judged too, and not a bit cloying. Absolutely lovely stuff.

Talking of Rum finish, the cider I'm drinking now seems to me to have a bit of Rum spirit character, which is odd because as far as I know it isn't fermented or matured in spirit cask.

Ciderniks is a small-scale craft cidermaker based in leafy Berkshire. I picked up a bottle of their Combe Raider cider from White Dragon in Burton-on-Trent, and very good it is too. Fully dry, light in body, but quite full-flavoured in a West-Country way. There's a bit of 'Tang', and some pleasant 'woodiness', but it's the mysterious 'Rum' character that lingers longest on the tongue. So, is this cider showing a 'Bit of Spirit', or is it just 'A Rum-Do'?.... Oh I don't know! I'll get me coat...

Anyway, the Sipping & Sampling is about to get a whole lot more serious this week, with the arrival of the mighty-mighty Peterborough Beer Festival, just up the road in.... err, Peterborough. I'll be going tomorrow, meeting and greeting fellow cider drinkers (and cidermakers) from the three corners of the country, at what's considered by many to be one of the heavyweight champions of the cider bar world. More ciders and perrys than I can be bothered counting, all washed down with one of several 'Traditional Festival Downpours' booked for the day.

Yes, it's going to be a wet one with rain predicted throughout the day. Oh well, Cest-La-Vie. It's all under canvas anyway. I guess we can pretend we're propping up the bar at the Burrow Hill Cider Bus, knee-deep at that other notorious mudfest, Glastonbury Festival...... again!

Friday, 20 August 2010

Chickenout Free-range T-shirt Competition

Here's our modest contribution to Compassion in World Farming's Chickenout Free-range T-shirt Competition. These designs feature our lovely hen Dolly, who we sadly lost earlier this year.

We at Rockingham Forest Cider fully support the Chickenout campaign, and urge all our readers to buy higher welfare chicken and eggs whenever possible.


Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Red Lion Doin' The Do!

Life moves pretty slow in Middleton. It's a 'Northamptonshire Village' kind of thing. Months, sometimes years can pass by without so much as a whisper of a newsworthy event. We rarely stop to look around once in a while as there's very little to be missed, and generally speaking that's just how we like it...

...and then our village local the Red Lion go and spoil it all by announcing a Mini Beer & Cider Festival for the weekend of the 3rd - 5th of September. Bah!

It's going to be a bit of a 'fun' day apparently, with a Barn Dance, Live Music, Food, Real Ales, Real Cider & Perry. Well I ask you, where's the fun in that! I suppose we'll throw ourselves into it, gritting our teeth, sharing a beer or two, making the best of a bad job. To that end we've agreed to supply some of our own ciders and perrys for the event. Here's the provisional list:

Rockingham Forest Cider (Med/Dry)
Welland Valley Festival Special Cider (Medium)
Red Kite Cider (Medium)
Rockingham Forest Perry (Med/Dry)
Green Horse Perry (Medium)

Well there you have it. Some of that new-fangled 'fun' is coming to Middleton. Whatever will they think of next! Never fear, I confidently predict that normal service will have resumed by Monday.

Sunday, 15 August 2010


I usually cook Pork Fillet in the 'Normandy' style. Apples, Calvados, Cream. A little Flambée fun... singed eyebrows, swigging lustily from a bottle of Cidre Brut and pinching Karen's bottom whenever she gets too close. 'Hee-Haw, Hee-Haw, Hee-Haw!'...I call this (and Karen) my 'Keith Floyd Dish'....

For Karen's benefit it was high time I 'Rang the Changes' and tried something a little different. Cider, Mustard, Honey, Pork. A veritable Holy Quadrinity of classic English ingredients with the potential to deliver 'Foody Nirvana' in the hands of a competent cook, 'Reasonable Chow' in mine.

Colemans Mustard, Cotwolds Honey, and Butford Organics Callisto Cider provided the sauciness. A slab of Pork Fillet from Ashley Herb Farm and a few leaves of Sage from under the beaks of the hens firmed things up. Slice, mix, layer, drizzle, season, and cook for half an hour in a moderate oven until cooked through. The honey may go slightly crunchy on top, don't worry, this is a good thing. Don't overdo the Sage! Or the Mustard! Feel free to overdo the cider though...

Butford Organics make wonderful, full-bodied, robust Herefordshire Ciders, and delicate, fragrant Perrys. The Callisto is a bottle fermented Medium/Dry cider made from mostly Bittersweet cider apples. It's the kind of cider you imagine being poured golden, hazy, and slightly sparkling from an ancient wooden barrel in a hidden rural hostelry in deepest Somerset. If only! The in-bottle fermentation has produced a lovely zesty note which perfectly balances the rich tannins from the Dabinett, Pethyre and Yarlington Mill cider apples. Delicious stuff, and available to lucky Burton-on-Trenters at the White Dragon English Produce Shop, which is where I got it.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Ciderhouse News - August and beyond...

I notice that our Wikio Wine & Beer Blog Ranking has slipped another two precious places. Bah Humbug !

This blog stands on a knife edge... A top 40 ranking is still within our reach, and with it the chance to Mash & Sparge-it-up with the great and the good of beer and brewing. Or do we slide even further into the bargain basement of blogging, sharing a cheap bottle of Shiraz on a park bench with the lower league Wine and Whiskey bloggers. If only we knew how those crafty beer scribes manage to fiddle their rankings...

Ah well! It's only popularity we crave after all. A much devalued currency in my opinion. I guess we'll always be mid-table bloggers, our cidery musings of little interest to the wider world. We're a specialist little cidery fish in an ocean of boozy Cods-wallop, and that's where we're happy to stay. Imagine the pressure of being in the top 10! We'd have to start putting some effort into the writing.... Well all I can say is 'Not on my watch!'

Here is the news:

Reports from both the Tollemache Arms and Raunds Town Cricket Club beer festivals suggest cider and perry are still riding a wave of popularity with local drinkers. The Tolly in Harrington had ran out of our Red Kite Cider well before the weekend rush, and only a few pints remained from the six assorted boxes we sent by close of play on Sunday. It's was such a shame that circumstances beyond our control (Chickens, who'd have 'em) prevented us from visiting the festival ourselves. Next year...

Thirsty Raunds drinkers made even shorter work of the eight barrels we sent to the Cricket Club, with everything selling out well before the festival wrapped up on Sunday. Plans are already in place for the 2011 event, and we'll be aiming to supply a bigger order, and hopefully a wider range for this popular event. We'd also like to thank Phil of the award winning Great Oakley Brewery for helping us out with delivery to Raunds this year. We'd also like to Congratulate Phil and his team on being awarded Bronze medals for Great Oakley Gobble, and their bottle conditioned Delapre Dark at this years Great British Beer Festival. Well deserved.

The next event we'll be sending cider and perry to is the Red Lion Mini Beer & Real Cider Festival (3rd - 5th Sept), part of a weekend of music and fun at our local pub in Middleton. We hope to have a couple of ciders, and at least one perry on offer over the weekend, including the long-awaited release of our Malvern Hills Perry. More details when we've squeezed them out of Fiona.

Brigstock Beer Festival is a local event we really like to be involved in. Great music, a fine range of beers and ciders, and the weather is always good for this one.... We'll have a couple of ciders and some more of the Malvern Hills on offer, and we hope to join the throng for a drink in the afternoon.

Apple Day 2010 (21st Oct) is still a way off yet, but events are already being added to the web page which can be viewed here. We haven't had confirmation yet, but hope to make a return appearance at this years excellent Brocks Hill Apple Day in Oadby , Leics. Again, more details when we have them.

Friday, 6 August 2010

Village Cider Shortage - Hosepipe Ban May Follow

Breaking News: Villagers and visitors alike have been left reeling at the news that Middleton hostelry the Red Lion has almost ran out of Rockingham Forest Cider. In a shocking turn of events, which pub regulars have described as '...a bit of a bugger', the cellar is quite literally 'almost dry' of traditional cider for possibly the first time since records (of cider in the cellar) began.

When asked to comment on the current desperate state affairs, licensee Kevin Barby is quoted as saying '...we've got lots of Perry', before adding '...and you can quote me on that'.

Strong sales of traditional cider over the Summer months have taken their toll on availability at the Red Lion, and it's perhaps no surprise that cider levels are at an all time low following mass outbreaks of people drinking it. Although we're still quite surprised...

Red Lion licensee Fiona Barby had this to say on the current cider shortages: 'We've got plenty of Green Horse Perry', before suggesting that '...if you like Perry, we've got some, and it's very nice'.

A Red Lion regular who wished to remain anonymous was quoted as saying 'It's an absolutely terrible state of affairs. In the absence of any Rockingham Forest Cider I've been forced to drink Rockingham Forest Green Horse Perry, and I've found it to be very nice indeed', before adding '...can I have my £5 now?'

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Coming Up Roses

As sure as night follows day, the Uppingham Flower & Produce Show comes rolling around just a little bit too soon for comfort. It's been a difficult year in the garden, with virtually zero rainfall and what seemed like quite a late start to the season. Most of the vegetables have only really got going, and many of the floral stuff is now on the turn.

As it was, we managed to scrape together ten entries, from which we achieved five prizes including a first for Parsnips, and most thrillingly of all, a first in the hotly contested Single Rose category. There it is on the right in all it's deep, velvety glory.

The reward for our growing and baking endeavours was a firm shake of the hand from the lovely Lady Mayoress of Rutland, and the presentation of a well-polished Mathews Rose Cup, which now has pride of place on the windowsill pending installation of a proper mantelpiece.

Embarrassingly, the cup will now be engraved with my name, this despite the fact that Karen is much more the flower girl than me. I'll put this down to an admin error. All our entries go in under one or other of our names, it just so happens that it was my turn this year. If watering and dead-heading counts for anything, I could claim a little of the glory, but in truth it should all go to Karen, known from now on as the Rose Queen of Middleton.