Jan 13 2020
“I had a dream where the car is reduced to a fossil.
I had a dream where the car is reduced to a fossil.
Take a packet of seeds, take yourself out to play,
I wanna see a river of orchids where we had a motorway.”
“River of Orchids” – XTC
Elsewhere, I have written about a chance meeting I had in December 2018 with two people at Torrside Brewery. A brief conversation revealing that they were usually Cider drinkers, but came to #ISBF5 and drank Saisons and Sours thoroughly enjoying themselves.
Now then, I’m a bit slow. So it was only on the train back from New Mills that I realised who I’d been talking to. Mancunian Cider Royalty. Dick Withecombe and his partner Cath Potter (henceforth, my Apple Venus of the title).
We met on a number of occasions leading up to #ISBF6. And they took on the creation of an exceptional Cider bar and bottle list. So good, that a number of beer drinkers that travelled up couldn’t tear themselves away.
Prior to that, we talked. They shared samples from their “cellar” with me and won me over to the charms of Pomona, the Roman orchard Goddess.
I started occasionally ordering a bottle of Ross, Little Pomona or Oliver’s Cider when I’d walk in a pub. For lovers of tart and sour beers, the interface was obvious. And led to directly to a tasting event at #ISBF6.
Anyway, I digress.
The Arch Nemesis messaged me. There was a Manchester Cider Club meeting. Showcasing Ross Cider. “Do you want a ticket? I’ve bought a spare, just in case…”
With a bloody stump where his hand had previously been, I had myself a ticket….
I’m a fan.
Myself and Jaz had been down to the vast Orchards and smaller Cidery of Ross Cider in September to blend a special for #ISBF6. My liquid highlight of 2019.
Due almost entirely to the efforts of Dick and Cath, quality Cider has been appearing in some of the best shops and bars of Greater Manchester. And nowhere highlights great Cider better than the venue on Thursday, The Crown & Kettle.
Just prior to the event, I was politely ambushed by Mr Withecombe and asked if I’d like to introduce Albert (Johnson – Ross Cider). With Albert being such a lovely fella (our host for the Blending and a thoroughly bad influence…. 😉) that was a joy.
Following my stumbling intro, Albert revealed some nerves about the unveiling of the first keg-conditioned Ciders from Ross. He needn’t have worried….
Taking us through the draught Ciders one by one, Albert talked around the history of Ross Cider, how the orchards originally supplied the mighty Bulmers, but how, following the Heineken Takeover of the Hereford cider maker, they no longer required apples from these Peterstow orchards. And the decision to make Cider and Perry themselves.
And the decision to make Cider and Perry with minimal intervention. No chemicals or pesticides.
On to the first drink. Dabinett (like the other Ciders, a single varietal Cider)
(All Cider pictures shamelessly stolen from @The_Lady_Sybil)
A “bittersweet” apple. With a fullish body (at 7.8% abv), this was possible the ideal starting point for this fruity adventure. Slight sweetness with a gentle tannic bitterness in the finish.
Utterly delicious. So much so that I introduced a number of colleagues to its joys the next day. And they completely agreed.
Next up. My appley siren call. Foxwhelp.
Slightly sherberty aroma masking the lovely tartness. If you like sour beers, really sour beers and aren’t sure about cider, get this in your face.
Bloody lovely, cheek-puckering stuff. My personal favourite cider apple.
Next up was Yarlington Mill. Deeper gold – almost amber – in colour, softer. Fruitier and less “challenging” than foxwhelp, but then…..
Exceptionally easy drinking. And (like many Ciders) deceptively so at 6.3% abv!
The final draught cider was
One of the older recorded varieties of cider apple (dating around early 17th century), according to sources, Cider made from these apples commanded a very high price (“as high as the best imported wine”)
This was again a bittersweet, deep golden, fruity, with lovely soft tannic dryness. Again, FAR too easy to drink.
Albert need not have worried about the carbonation with the keg-conditioning. It was spot on. The Ciders were SO easy to drink with the carbonation on the gentle – rather than assertive – side.
Then came single varietals in bottle.
Ashton Bitter, Court Royal & Dymock Red
Ashton Brown Jersey
Three unreleased bottles. All superb – I’m getting to like Cider and have (in so many ways) liked them too much this particular evening – with a marginal preference for the Codename Dabingnac with its enhanced complexity from the Armagnac barrel.
Albert, as ever (having spent an afternoon to beyond midnight, previously, drinking with him) was witty, informative and – understandably – nervous with these new releases in new format. But there was no need.
Forget Cider. These were just exceptional drinks. Drinks that are helping to slowly shift me towards the apple from the barley.
As is Manchester Cider Club. The event has grown from the tiny back room in the Crown & Kettle to having to occupy (and increasingly fill) the main bar area. A testament to the charm of the event. And the passion for all things Apple & Pear of its organisers.
If you are interested in learning more about events ft the best in low intervention Cider and Perry, I’d follow them on Twitter (hyperlink in previous paragraph) and keep careful watch. Because these tickets fly fast.
I’ll certainly be back.
Cath and Dick are also instrumental in the changed (and improved) Cider offer at the Manchester Beer & Cider Festival. If you’re there, go say hello! You might learn what I did.
That Cider has changed. For the better.
(Big thanks to Charlie and Dick for the photos – and to Albert for coming all the way from Peterstow and bringing GOODIES!)