Halloween Cider Festival

Halloween Cider Festival in Beautiful North Devon

Halloween Cider festival

Halloween Cider festival

At The Jack Russell Inn, Swimbridge

The Jack Russell
EX32 0PN

01271 830366


As always, a hand picked selection of the finest Ciders from Devon and Somerset.


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Cider Making Slideshow

A cider making slideshow on Flickr shows the cider apples on the trees in the orchard, then fallen on the ground, picked up,  collected in buckets and bagged.

The cider fruit are then washed down in trays using a hose pipe, and piled into the hopper of the scratter or apple grinding machine which turns the apples into mash ready to be pressed.

The big cider press squashes the cheeses filled with the apple mash and the juice is squeezed out, dripping through the cloth and racks into the collecting container.

You can see  the freshly pressed apple juice later starting to ferment and being stored in large oak barrels.

Let’s just all act like grown ups as if there isn’t a Llama in the room shall we?

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Real cider and Industrial Cider contrasted

From the bucolic and sunkissed to the urban and gritty, ciders are an unusual family of drinks. Real cider and Industrial Cider are contrasted here.


I don’t think any food or drink plummets through quality quite like cider. Its best examples are sharp and auburn, tasting of hay and meadowsweet. In the middle lie the fizzy wee of Strongbow, its jumped-up, overbranded cousin Magners and a slew of similar products like Gaymers and Bulmers. Thrashing at the bottom is gutrot white cider, at once the friend and enemy of many underage and homeless drinkers.

This country has had a continuous tradition of cider-making for at least 1,000 years, and likely longer. It’s hard to be sure because both Roman orchards and the eighth-century monasteries that revived them might have used their fruit for eating or cooking. The Normans have always been enthusiastic cider-makers and no doubt a few came over after 1066. But basic scrumpy-making isn’t particularly difficult, and it seems probable that not long after the apple left Turkey, Iran or elsewhere in western Asia, people worked out how to ferment its juice.

Real cider remains happily bucolic, rooted in druids and wassailing and hymned by the sprites of the orchards. The jug-eared mugs you traditionally drink it from are descended from old English loving cups.

But cider has only recently returned to fashion. It all but vanished in the first half of the 20th century, choked by hops and decimated by Britain’s sad rejection of domestic apple varieties. By the 1960s it was close to a yokelish footnote. Its market has swollen more than fourfold since the 70s thanks in large part to a favourable tax situation. The Treasury takes a little over 30 quid for every 100l of “mainstream” cider, compared to about £125 for beer and just under £170 for spirits. (“Fizzy” cider attracts a much higher tariff.) This was to protect traditional cider-makers and revive a moribund industry, and to a large extent it succeeded.

Companies like Sheppy’s and Aspall had been quietly making cider through the slump, and unlike most of their competitors (Bulmers, Magners, Gaymers), both avoided being taken over. But all cider producers benefited from the system, and 2m new cider apple trees were planted in the UK between 1995 and 2006.

In its final budget in 2010 Labour announced plans to hike the duty on cider 10% above inflation: it shelved these plans after a bizarre and very British outcry. I’m not sure this rediscovered taste for the drink means we cook with it any more: English recipes use cider almost exclusively in pork dishes, though Normandy has been somewhat more inventive.

Sadly, the cider renaissance also helped to spur the growth of white cider, which remains the cheapest way to get drunk. Alcohol and homeless charities are tireless in explaining the social costs of white cider. In April this year the chief executive of Thames Reach likened its use among alcoholics to that of heroin among heroin addicts, and Alcohol Concern has called for it to be banned altogether. All cider has to contain at least 35% apple juice by law, but white cider manufacturers make this up using imported apple concentrate.

It seems astonishing that Magners only launched nationwide in 2006, so ubiquitous has it become. I have to say I find it unpleasantly acidic and gassy, and the conceit of serving it over ice is perhaps the most affected thing to happen to alcohol since Anthony Blanche’s brandy alexanders. But what a clever bit of marketing that was: fill the glass with ice and sell less product for more money. Magners led to the relaunch of Bulmer’s Original and, this year, to Stella Artois’s “Cidre”, which I haven’t tasted but which the great beer writer Pete Brown describes as “not unpleasant … but odd”.

As the Guardian’s wine writer Fiona Beckett points out, by buying decent cider you get “the best artisanal products Britain has to offer for the same price as the dullest commercially produced wine”. Despite 40 years of government-led investment, most of us could still be drinking more of this criminally underrated drink, which at its best easily rivals champagne. I like Westons from Herefordshire, and Healey’s sent me a bottle the other day which was excellent. But there are now enough small cider producers that every half-decent pub should stock them, and there’s only one way to find your favourite.


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Strongbow Banned!

Real cider enthusiasts may be cheered by the news that Strongbow has been banned from a pub. But if we dig a little deeper, is this really more the case of a traditional pub being turned into a celebrity chef gastropub with the old locals being shunned in favour of middle class diners? Or is that Ok because he wants to create a traditional ale and cider house. How should real cider drinkers react to this story, it’s a dilemma isn’t it?

Celebrity chef Marco Pierre White has taken the controversial step of banning Foster’s lager and Strongbow cider from his new pub.

The Hell’s Kitchen star removed the popular drinks from sale at his Angel pub in Lavenham, Suffolk, just months after buying the pub from its previous owners.

He bought the pub with a view to creating an authentic ale and cider house in the village.

“I don’t like Foster’s and Strongbow,”explained Pierre White, “I like traditional ales and ciders. If they don’t like that, I’m sorry.”

His plans have already upset some local beer drinkers who feel they are being pushed out of their local pub.

“The Angel is the heart of Lavenham,” said regular Rod Benson, “We like a drink, but we’re not lager louts. When the drinks we like disappeared, we got the message he doesn’t really want us there.”

The pub, which was first licensed back in 1420, had come close to closure prior to Pierre White’s purchase.

Since restoring the interior of the pub, the chef has sought to attract a different kind of beer drinker.

He is also taking steps to curb “laddish” behaviour, with swearing, tattoos and dogs on chairs also outlawed.

“If I was going to take my mother to dinner there I would not wish her to be exposed to that sort of thing,” he said.

“When I take over an establishment I see myself as the caretaker. I accept not everyone will agree with my decisions.”


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Bristol Cider Dinner at Bishopston Supper Club

Details and full menu for the Bristol Cider Dinner on Friday August 19th at  Bishopston Supper Club

Hosted by: Bishopston Supper Club with Bristol Cider Shop

Entry Price/Session times:

Fri 19th August: 7:30pm arrival (£40*)

* = £10 deposit to be paid in advance to Bristol Cider Shop and the remaining £30 to be paid on the night.

Tickets: Call, email or pop in to the Bristol Cider Shop;


Arrival drink and nibbles – Butford Organics ‘Aurora’ bottle fermented perry

Chicken liver and Somerset Cider Brandy paté, shallot marmalade – Lyne Down Kingston Black cider

Herring marinated in Oliver’s perry vinegar, new potato salad – Oliver’s Three Counties perry

Wild rabbit and cider stew, mustard mash and greens – Heck’s Farmhouse cider

Blueberry and Slider jelly, coriander seed ice cream – Bramley & Gage Slider

Ragstone, quince paste – Somerset Pomona

Coffee/tea, apple curd tarts

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Country diary: Yarlington, Somerset

John Vallins spends time at Yarlington Fringe Festival. Yarlington, after which the famous Yarlington Mill cider apple variety is named, is a very small village in a hidden valley, but it attracts great crowds to its Fringe festival.

Yarlington Mill Cider Apple

Yarlington Mill Cider Apple

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Cider Festival at Brogdale


A brand new festival is being held at Brogdale this year; the Great British Cider, Beer and Food Festival will take place on 24 and 25 September and producers will showcase food and drink from around Kent and the UK.

Sally Roger marketing manager at Brogdale, home of the National Fruit Collections comments: “Our traditional cider festival is very popular in September and also has a number of food producers attending so we have decided this year to broaden the festival to give equal prominence to cider, beer and food and to give local producers the chance to showcase the great food and drink which is on offer here in Kent.”

The cider bar will be much larger than in previous years and we are hoping to have over 100 different ciders to taste or take home. Cider apples will still be very prominent both in a display and also as part of the orchard tours.”

“Many people don’t just come to taste cider at this time of year but we are increasingly getting a number of enquiries from people who want to make their own cider so choosing the right variety of tree is important and what better way than to see the many varieties of cider apple grown at Brogdale and to select one that best suits your tastes.”

There will be plenty to entertain at the festival for all ages so if you want a break from sampling all the food and drink on offer then there will be guided and self guided orchard tours, tractor trailer rides, miniature railway rides, cookery demonstrations and gardening talks, fruit variety identification and much more.

There will also be music to entertain throughout the afternoon and evening including on Saturday local bands The Fecks, Engine and Clutch & Gearbox and on Sunday Adrian Ben and the Chillbillies. There is also the marketplace shops, Grow plant centre, Courtyard Cafe and new Lottery funded children’s play area.

Anyone interested in having a stall at the festival should contact Brogdale at enquiries@brogdalecollections.co.uk or call 01795 536250. Stalls will cost £55 for a marquee space 10% discount if you bring your own gazebo.

Further information on visiting Brogdale can be found at www.brogdalecollections.co.uk .




Brogdale Collections is a charity with the principle aim of creating awareness and interest in The National Fruit Collections and to enhance the long term sustainable future for the living collections at Brogdale.

The National Fruit Collections are the largest fruit collection in the world growing on one site, and comprise around 2,200 apples, 550 pears, 320 cherries, 350 plums, 50 hazelnuts, 150 gooseberries, 200 currants (black, red, white and pink), as well as small collections of vines, quinces, medlars and apricots.

Guided tours and self-guided walks of the orchards at Brogdale are available daily. Other attractions include the Market Place which offers stress-free and local shopping in a peaceful environment with fresh local produce such as apple juice, cider, meats, cheese, pies, pickles and jams.

Grow, the onsite nursery, sells a range of plants, shrubs and trees from the collections. While the courtyard restaurant serves delicious cakes, cream teas and light meals.

Brogdale is open daily from 10am – 5pm, 1 April – 7 November, with shorter opening hours during the winter.  Guided tours cost £7.00 adults, £6.50 concessions, £3.50 children (under 16) and £17.50 families.  Self-guided walks cost £5.00 adults, £4.50 concessions, £2.50 children (under 16) and £12.50 families.  Groups are also welcome and discounts are available (pre-booking is essential).

Annual season tickets are also available to buy.  Information on visiting Brogdale and its attractions can be found on Twitter @Brogdalefarm or www.brogdalecollections.co.uk

Festival and event days:

9-10 July Cherry Festival

14 August Plum Day

18 September Nut Day

24-25 September The Great British Cider, Beer and Food Festival

22-23 October Apple Festival

The Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) is funded by Defra and the EU.

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