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.