Despite being relatively fresh out of university my drinking experiences haven’t been entirely fuelled by the cheapest drink on the bar, I promise.
I had my first taste of real cider at the Isle of Man CAMRA beer and cider festival. Before this encounter I had no idea that cider came in any form other than the fizzy and/or flavoured variety!
Ever since, I have been learning from the very best that Nottingham has to offer. It is through this process I have found out the importance of focusing on what our local and small cider makers have to offer us.
So, here we go…
Smokin’ Barrels – Blue Barrel – Nottingham
Founded in Clifton’s Summerwood Community Garden in 2009, Blue Barrel began by using bike powered scratters and have remained authentic ever since. Every single apple is pressed by hand using a traditional rack and cloth press.
Emma and Leo head up this project and every step of the process is entirely community focused. Even when it comes to ordering for our pubs, it’s a simple matter of ringing up Emma at which point she usually shouts Leo in from the garden to talk cider. It all feels so authentic and personal.
Smokin’ Barrels is a cracking dry to medium dry cider. Aged in whiskey barrels it is marvellously robust, with a fruity kick and distinct smoky finish. Plus every sale is for a fantastic cause, as all proceeds go back into the Summerwood Community Garden.
Cheeky Charlie – Healy’s of Winwick – Northamptonshire
I first met Ben from Healy’s during our Meet the Maker event at the Kean’s Head. He showed a true passion for real cider. As a carpenter and joiner, his cider journey all began with a handmade oak press. All their apples are handpicked and still pressed this same way.
Every cider they make has been given a name that means something to their family and this gives their company such a homely feel (Cheeky Charlie is named after the family’s beloved horse of 16 years).
Made with Royal Gala, red Falstaff and Bramley seedling apples, this cider is refreshingly light. It’a a lovely crisp medium that is not too heavy and Healy’s best bottled seller.
Sliding Bevel – Harefields Craft Cider – Northamptonshire
Yet another pick from Northamptonshire. They’re clearly doing some good work down there! Created by Davey Chambers, who some may recognise from the Great British Bake Off, Harefields came to fruition off the back of a family orchard that spanned three generations. All of their ciders are matured for a minimum of six months – a process that proves to be well worth the wait.
I decided to make Sliding Bevel one of my cider picks due to its interesting and full bodied flavour profile. Davey has created a cider with subtle hints of both caramel and toffee apple. This a naturally occurring taste and requires nothing but 100% apple juice and a wild fermentation process. Make no mistake this definitely is not a sweet cider, however, it does go to show that there is no need to add anything artificial to create such a lovely medium cider.
Dark in colour, goes down smooth and warms you up from the inside. Perfect for the coming autumn weather. Best enjoyed next to a crackling bonfire.