Sunday, 29 May 2011

Newark Beer Festival

So many beer festivals, so little time. Our cider and perry has been (almost) everywhere this weekend, from the cosy environs of our village local the Red Lion, to the vast expanse of canvas and casks at Delapre Abbey, home of the excellent Northampton CAMRA Beer Festival. I can't be everywhere though, much as I'd like to, so the Newark CAMRA Beer Festival got the dubious benefit of my custom on Friday.

I haven't been to the Newark beer festival for the best part of a decade. I recall the festival then was in the grounds of the castle, a slightly bawdy affair, which must have been good because I can't recall much more than that to be honest! In common with all CAMRA festivals, the Newark event has developed into a very professionally run festival, and a firm fixture on the local social scene. Live bands, good food, and of course a wide range of ales, ciders and perries are the theme of the weekend, all housed in a chandelier-hung luxury marquee close to the castle and rail station. It's a hassle-free affair, which is just how I like them.

The cider bar at Newark has a really good mix of well-known national brands and high quality craft producers, including a few local rarities for 'enthusiasts' like myself. This was my first opportunity to try Moorland Farm Cyder from Yorkshire. Their Medium/Sweet was the winner of the inaugural East Mids & Yorkshire CAMRA Cider Competition in 2010. I tried the Medium/Dry, which was clean and very well made, with a nice peachy flavour in the finish. Sandford Orchards is another CAMRA award winner, taking gold in the 2010 national competition at Reading. Their cider is a smooth, high tannin west country blend, well deserving of the accolade in my opinion. Local award winner Torkard Cider had three ciders at the festival, as well as their two cidermakers propping up the bar! Pick of these was their Floppy Tabs which had a good balance of zingy sharpness and full fruity flavour, with a little more of the peachy flavour in the finish. I also tried ciders from Udders Orchard, Green Valley, Lyme Bay, Sarah's, Sheppy's and a quality control half of our own Red Kite Yarlington Mill Cider. I have to say that once again the pick of the bunch for me was the peerless Alpaca Perry from our friends at Ross Cider & Perry in Herefordshire. Something similar from Ross will be available at the Red Lion during the forthcoming Welland Valley Beer Festival in June.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Ciderhouse News - Spring Bank Holiday Weekend

Another Bank Holiday weekend means another rash of Beer & Cider Festivals. We've been busy barrelling and boxing up for three events over the final weekend of May:

  • Northampton CAMRA Beer Festival (26th - 28th May) in the grounds of Delapre Abbey is always a very popular event. The cider bar gets through a huge amount of real cider and perry, Northampton folk seem to have a taste for the stuff. I'm hoping that recent CAMRA national award winner Virtual Orchard will have sent some of their Hard Core Cider for us to try, and I'm also looking forward to trying the new season Eve's Cider from Kettering. We'll be sending a batch of our Rockingham Forest Cider, and a slightly drier Blakeney Red Perry than the one currently doing the rounds.

  • We'll be using the excellent Torkard Cider Courier Service to deliver to this years Newark CAMRA Beer Festival (27th - 29th May), for which we thank Ray & Gail. I'm hoping to visit Newark for this years event, so we'll be looking out for Hucknalls finest, plus plenty of other good stuff. More of that Blakeney Red Perry will be going to Newark, along with a box of Red Kite Cider, our Yarlington Mill single varietal.

  • Legendary Leicestershire ale house the Cow & Plough, have taken delivery of a small box of Blakeney Red Perry for their annual Booze & Blues Festival (26th - 28th May). A small box is not likely to last very long, so get it while you can.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Ciderhouse News - Shoulder of Mutton, Weldon

We've just had confirmation of an order for cider and perry from the Shoulder of Mutton in nearby Weldon village, ready for their 1st Beer Festival & Ale Trail over the weekend of the 14th /15th of May. In addition to our own, we'll be supplying a Blakeney Red Perry and a Browns Apple Cider from our friends at Ross Cider & Perry in Herefordshire. More details below:

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Great Cider Pubs Pt.1 - The Crown Inn, Woolhope

I've been to one or two really good cider pubs recently. By which I mean good pubs which also sell a decent range of really good quality ciders and perries. Of course cider of sorts is available in every pub, usually the cold, fizzy, low juice content stuff which does a job (I call them 'Thirst Extinguishers'), but can't compete for depth of flavour with the genuine, pure juice, craft ciders and perries made by smaller producers such as ourselves.

Today I went to a really outstanding cider pub, which involved a trip down the M50 into Herefordshire, and down seriously winding lanes to the pretty village of Woolhope. The Crown Inn is a pub which has been floating at the periphery of my 'cider vision' for quite some time now, so a re-fuelling trip to Ross Cider & Perry gave me an excellent opportunity to pay this pub a visit. It's a great looking village local for sure. Local ales, locally sourced food, host to the village Cricket Club, and all those little bits of community involvement that make the pub such an important part of village life. What takes it onto a different level for me though is that it's positively steeped in cider and perry.

Licensees Matt & Annalisa Slocombe ran the highly regarded Scrumpy House in Much Marcle for several years, which is presumably where they developed a love of all things cider and perry. Here at the Crown, they've brought along draught Westons Bounds Brand Scrumpy and Herefordshire Country Perry from Much Marcle, and an impressive array of bottled ciders and perries sourced from throughout the county.

It's not often I'm spoilt for cider and perry choice in a pub, but where to start? The cider and perry list runs to 16 varieties from Gwatkin, Greggs Pitt, Dragon Orchard, Lyne Down, Olivers, Mays, Checkley Brook, and Ross on Wye. I plumped for a Checkley Brook Cyder, a deep reddish gold, smooth and rich, with plenty of bittersweet character. Lovely stuff!

There's a nice slice of garden at the front of the pub (and a larger one at the rear) with a proper Herefordshire view to go with it. A word of warning though, the local Blackbirds are the cheekiest I've ever come across. I was lucky to finish my delicious Brie & Chorizo Sandwich before one particularly bold feathered resident very nearly succeeded in swiping the lot from under my nose. Cheeky indeed! You have been warned!

This love of cider and perry must run through the Slocombe family. I couldn't help noticing that family members Isabella and Sebastian took the runner up spot in the Novice Perry category at this years Cider & Perry Trials in Putley. They were pipped at the post by Matt. The certificates are proudly displayed in the bar, as indeed they should be.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Fete Accompli

It's Bank Holiday Monday, and we're on a roll with our final event of the weekend, the lovely Elton Village Fete. This annual homage to Teas, Tombola, and quality Bric-a-Brac also features a very good beer festival at the thatched Crown Inn, which also features a few ciders as it happens.

Whilst Karen happily rummaged her way through other peoples junk, I joined what seemed like half the village at the (ahem!) Gentlemans Creche for a few well-earned halves. I enjoyed cider from Cassels of Cambridgeshire, a sweetish Gwynt-Y-Ddraig Pyder, and a 'quality control' half of our own Red Kite Cider, which seemed to taste even better than when it left the ciderhouse. Three cheers for the Great British Fete.

The Ciders

A Red Kite in the afternoon sun

The Beers

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Red, White & Blue at Cider & Cheese Festival

Wherever there's a well stocked cider bar, you're sure to find the Rockingham Forest Cider Picking & Panking Team in situ. Such was the case at this years Swan & Rushes Cider & Cheese Festival. Whilst I loitered on the fun side of the bar, our compact harvesting team Paul & Sue, gamely volunteered to help out at the sharp end, pouring, serving, and offering their expertise to customers throughout the Saturday session (whether they wanted it or not).


...and Cheese

For my part, I indulged in plenty of cider, perry, and as much cheese as my trembling arteries could handle. The cheese selection was a wonder to behold, and not a pineapple chunk in sight. My picks of the day were the hard as Parmesan Gorsehill Abbey St Kenelm, a mellow, sweetish cheese from very near where we harvest our cider apples and perry pears. Two Hoots Barkham Blue was a really creamy, classy blue; and the Wootton Dairy Ringwell Organic was both crumbly and creamy, with a moreish, slightly pungent flavour. This festival is worth visiting for the cheese alone.

But there was cider and perry too of course. I concentrated mainly on perries, including a sweetish Thorn and rich Greggs Pitt/Aylton Red/Blakeney Red blend from the ever reliable James Marsden of Greggs Pitt fame, plus excellent, well-balanced perries from Springherne and Barbourne.

As usual, the day went far too quickly, and I bid a sad farewell to the many cheeses and ciders I didn't get a chance to try. Congratulations to the Big Cheese himself Grant, and his hard working team for putting on such a fine festival.