Saturday, 15 October 2011

Welcome Break - Nottingham

Home grown Dabinett cider apples
After a couple of weeks of cidermaking inactivity, it's nearly time to get back on the horse and make a bit of cider.

Putting our feet up last weekend, as we did, turned out to be less relaxing than I'd hoped for. With nothing much ready to harvest, and very little at home to press, it was hard to shake the feeling that we should be doing something. Anything really! We're in the cidermaking zone now, and a weekend off just doesn't seem quite right. I've missed being in the orchard, and I'm acutely aware that the nights are drawing in, and the clocks will be going back very soon. Daylight hours for pressing will become that little bit more... err... squeezed.

So we're off to Worcestershire tomorrow to get the Yarlington Mill harvest in. I'm hoping that most of the fruit will still be on the trees so we can shake them down onto a clean tarpaulin, rather than digging fallen apples out of the grass. It's a crucial difference since the sooner we get finished in the orchard, the sooner we get to the Crown & Trumpet for well earned refreshments.

Today would have perhaps been a better day for orchard work. The sun has been shining all day, and after the early shock of a ground frost, it's been a wonderful warm Autumnal day. Unfortunately, none of the harvest team were in the mood for the obligatory early start, largely owing to a day of intensive 'research' at the Nottingham CAMRA Beer Festival yesterday. It's taken a couple of weeks, but we're finally getting the hang of these 'days off'.

Ru in full flow
This was my first visit to the festival on its new site at Nottingham Castle, and I must say I was very impressed with the whole setup. Professionally run, and with a real 'Festival' atmosphere created by the various food stalls and outdoor music. The range of ciders and perries at the festival was so extensive it had been split into two (three if you include the bijou Castle Rock Bar). We started at the West Country & Wales bar, efficiently run by local CAMRA activists Dee and Ru. It was hard to know where to start, or indeed finish, but I particularly enjoyed the Raglan Barn Owl Perry, and the Dry version of the Dorset Nectar.

We then moved up the hill to the Main Marquee, if only for a change of scenery. The cider bar here included a range from the Three Counties, and the ambitiously titled Rest of the UK. I recall enjoying a Checkley Brook, and a Marches Cyder Circle Kingston Black, but perhaps the highlight of this bar was the extensive Local & East Midlands selection, which featured examples from every county in the region, and quite a few rarities never before seen at a festival. Congratulations to the cider bar organisers for assembling such a ridiculously wide range of quality ciders and perries.
The winning cider

Congratulations must also go to Ray & Gail Blockley of Torkard Cider fame for winning the Best of the East Midlands Ciders competition with their 256 Cider, just pipping ourselves into second place.

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