I recently posted a Q&A with Tom Oliver from Oliver’s Cider OCLE PYCHARD, HEREFORDSHIRE, ENGLAND. You can read it here. We know that great, some argue the best, cider is produced in West Country England. I wanted to know a bit more about British cider, specifically Herefordshire, so I Googled away and found pretty much what I already know: the same thing over and over, a factual description of West Country cider. But I wanted more stories and culture, and to feel like I am actually sitting in a Herefordshire pub.
I finally hit Amazon and found quite a decent selection of fictional stories that focus around West Country cider, specifically Herefordshire. To my surprise I concluded the best way to get an overall feel, of the culture and history was through fiction. Of course I could experience it first hand but that’s unlikely to happen any time soon. What’s the next best thing? Fiction. Don’t believe me? Try reading Of Apples and Serpents, by Mike Knight. Yes, the characters and the plot is fictional but the cider culture gets right to the core of life in Herefordshire.
The story is a typical “what goes around comes around” story taken place in a town called Lower Kings Cannon.
It starts with a couple’s first visit to the old Black Lion Pub. Over a pint of the best cider in the country, they are greeted by a local bloke who retells the story of the “cider poisonings.”
Opening his Christmas stocking, Tom Beddows discovers an old cider recipe handed down from his Grandfather. The recipe sits idle for years to come. By the time Tom reaches adulthood he tragically loses his father, mother and grandfather. Not able to cope with the lost of his loved ones, he moves into the Cwm Woods and becomes a hermit.
Just when things seem impossible for Tom, the classy Lady Penelope falls off her horse near the old shack. Tom rescues her, and to thank him, she offers him a job on the estate. Along with his first wages came four bags of cider apples. Though Tom lived a life with few posessions he still hung on to his granddad’s cider recipe. The typical recipe included traditional British apples such as Foxwhelp, Josie’s Crab, Slap My Girdle, Lady’s Finger, Chisel Jersey, Brown Snout and Redstreak.
Tom finally cleaned himself up and they got busy pounding apples in the tub of his shack. Tom wrapped the pulp in hessian and pressed the rough pomace in a makeshift cider press. Oh, and he also added a freshly killed rabbit to the juice.
From the book: “He made a timber frame and with a rope and piece of timber made a tourniquet to exert pressure on the cheese.”
They shared their first batch of cider with local friends and the rest was history. They eventually formed the largest cidery in Herefordshire.
After immense success, a local childhood nemesis of Tom’s decided to poison Tom’s success by poisoning the famous cider. Dozens of young cider drinkers die from poisoned cider and Tom and his family suffer the consequences.
The book definitely epitomized the cultural life of Herefordshire. The cider man at hay making season, the yearly wassail, agriculture and of course the local pub.
To represent Herefordshire cider I chose Oliver’s Traditional Cider
For the pour. Clear with micro bubbles. Color was that of a ripe star fruit. Based on the legs, I anticipate a full body.
On the nose, a distinct West Country perfume with floral, hay, and white grape hiding in the back.
The mouthfeel is full bodied at the highest level. This is definitely a pub drink. If you haven’t had a West Country British cider then prepare yourself, This cider is complex. Big acidity caries the perfumy, floral and I mean floral notes with hay and band aid in the background. and boom, big tannins, but not too bitter. It’s like stepping into a pool head first after sitting in the hot sun all day. Three simultaneous sensations. As I took a couple more sips, the oak and vanilla showed up, probably from the barrels. This is definitely dry but the intense floral notes almost reminds me of honeysuckle. This is what I want after a day of hay making or any type of farming.
People talk about aftertaste and yes this has it, we call it the finish and this is a great thing as far as I am concerned. I can imagine the cider Tom Beddows made tasting just like this.
My over all impression
This is a pub or outside beverage and since the bottle is only 16.9 oz, I can enjoy this alone. I just love my local beer and wine store. Oliver’s is on the shelf at all times. Folks, this is not beer, it is not wine, it’s pure cider and while the British call it lovely, I call it bad ass.