Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Three Counties Show and Tell

The Bath & West Show in Somerset is undoubtedly the regional show to go to for cider interest. Practically the whole of the West Country cider industry decamp to Shepton Mallet for the duration of the show, as well as a fair few of us grockles with more than a passing interest in cider. The cider competition is a particular highlight, as are the numerous talks, tastings, and displays, all backed up by a well stocked cider bar and numerous producers stalls.

I haven't been to the Bath & West for a few years now, so it's been with a mixture of interest and frustration that I've read the numerous online bulletins from the show this year. It's during events like these that Twitter really comes into its own, as numerous cider folk document in minute detail every aspect of the show I've been real time, Bah!

My envy was tempered slightly by the knowledge that I had tickets for the second best show for cider, and probably the best for perry, at the Three Counties Show at Malvern. The cider and perry section may not be quite the size of the Bath & West, but the cream of local cider and perry producers can be found here, conveniently located in the cavernous foodie environs of the Severn Hall. There's a well respected cider and perry competition, plus tastings and talks are run throughout the weekend, but it's the numerous stalls run by cider and perry makers which are the stars of the show for me.

We met up with Torkard Cider man, Ray Blockley at the show, and proceeded to sample our way around this years stalls which included Barbourne, Olivers, Newtons, Old Grove, Out of the Orchard, Severn Cider, Once Upon a Tree, Gwatkin, Ralphs, McCrindles, as well as a range of Three Counties ciders and perries on the Orchard, Hive & Vine stall. It was a cider and perry festival by any other name.

During a tasting session, I asked Peter Mitchell of the Hartpury Orchard Centre whether a perry tasting could be run next year. Apparently this is already catered for at the Malvern Autumn Show, so there's another date for my diary.

Looks familiar! The Simon Abbiss travelling cider press. Ray was torn between this and the vintage tractors next door.

Some of the entries in the Three Counties Cider & Perry Association annual competition

The well appointed 'Cider Island' featuring the cream of Three Counties cider and perry makers

One (or two) for the ladies. Herefordshire cider and perry making legend Tom Oliver, with his impressive array of bottled and draught produce. Canny dog Tom was conveniently located next to the cheese display...

It's not all cider and perry at the show. Charles Martell's famous perry washed Stinking Bishop took a 1st prize. They all looked well-tasty, and appropriately located adjacent to the cider and perry stalls.

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