Cider Salon 2019 with Waddy & Finchy - 24 hours in Bristol!
**Long article alert – This is a bit longer than my usual articles, but it’s a recap on what was a fantastic 24 hours in Bristol. So I hope you enjoy it.**
What? A major tasting event with 20 producers pouring a total of 60 speciality ciders, to be held at the Trinity Centre. Discover a world of fine cider; Méthod Traditionelle, Pét Nat, Keeved, Perry, Pommeau, Ice & Fire.
Where? Hosted in the Trinity Centre Bristol
Why? 'For the love of cider!' Ciders will be poured by the producers themselves, so you will be able to ask questions and learn about terroir, apple varieties and ageing techniques.
. . . . . . . .
I drove down on the morning of the Salon itself, working my way across the country (coming from Lincolnshire) through very heavy rain. Thirty miles out from Bristol the clouds parted and the sun began to shine, a good omen for the day ahead…
Thanks to the early start I made it to Bristol Cider Shop in time to hear from Denis France of Presshead Cider. Denis had brought several of his creations including a brand new 750 ml bottled Single Variety called HubbaBubba, so named because apparently freshly pressed Yarlington Mill apples smell like bubble gum (which I am now going to have to test). I have to say I really liked it, full of caramel and toffee notes, it really showcases what a fantastic cider apple the Yarlington Mill is. He also brought some of the new batch of Ital Drop which I think he was as disappointed with as I was (check out my review of the last version)… definitely didn’t have the character and sumptuous sweetness from the previous version. But Denis openly admitted some challenges he’d had with it and at the time said next year he plans to get it back to where it was. He also bought ‘Firestarter’ which was Waddy’s (James Waddington Co-Founder Crafty Nectar) favourite, and ‘White Label’.
"Denis had brought several of his creations including a brand new 750 ml bottled Single Variety called HubbaBubba, so named because apparently freshly pressed Yarlington Mill apples smell like bubble gum"
If you missed Denis’s tasting, why not check out the Facebook Live recording I did in the #Rethinkcidergroup.
From there it was off to the Salon itself, this year at the Trinity Centre, literally 100-200 metres up the road from last year’s venue. All on one level this time and a bit bigger, although that wasn’t as obvious because there were more producers in attendance, which of course is a good thing. There were no early admittances for the media which was a shame, not even for the world famous Cider Critic ;-) The format was the same; glass on entry, plus a list this year to keep track of what you’ve tasted. The producers were dotted all around the room, each with a small table to share their creations from. In addition, there was a bottle shop run by Felix Nash (Fine Cider) where some of the beverages could be purchased, something missing and lamented by many last year.
So what were the highlights for me in no particular order?
Well...there was Skyborry’s Pommage, a keeved cider full of rich deep earthiness, I’ve never tasted anything quite like it. The Tor Cider Company surprised me the most with their 2011 Traditional Method Bramley cider, 8 years had really mellowed the sharpness and allowed the flavour of the apple to really shine through. Bollhayes had three vintages, 2014 & 2013 (both Taste of the West Gold winners 2019), but also a 2003, which was incredible, 16 years in the making – it was a cider to be savoured and sipped, like a fine brandy. The Hawkes cidermakers were out in force (Roberto, Rad & Theo) had their fantastic Braeburn Sole Trader as well as two on-grape fermentations; Gewürztraminer and Tempranillo. I had tried both previously still from bag-in-boxes but the added sparkle really lifted both and made me switch favourites, from the Tampranillo to the Gewürztraminer.
"...but also a 2003, which was incredible, 16 years in the making – it was a cider to be savoured and sipped, like a fine brandy." (on Bollhayes 2003 cider)
Sam Mount from Kentish Pip had brought two very limited bottles, a perry ‘Civil Disobedience’ made with dessert and perry pears and a cider ‘Between the Woods’, made with Major cider apples and sweetened with Braeburn juice. Both traditional with a South East twist. Sam did a tasting with us, check out the video.
I wish I could have captured the look on my face when Eleanor from Eden Speciality Ciders replied to my question and said she’d bought an extra bottle of her Cellar Series #2 The Falstaff to be auctioned off. I was ecstatic...right up to the point (at the end of the Salon) when I found out Sam Mount had outbid me, talk about roller coaster of emotion. Alvar and Veronika Roosimaaof Jannihanso, what can I say... their label designs just ooze class and quality. Their HQ, a bottle-fermented cider with quince and honey was unreal. They’ve managed to secure a touch of honey on the palate that doesn’t overpower and instead uplifts the whole drink. Sam Nightingale had bought his aptly named Song Bird and boy did it sing. A single variety of Russet apples, I couldn’t decide between it and Find & Fosters. Shows what quality a single variety eating apple can provide. James Forbes of Little Pomona had brought his Brut Cremant NV. A blend of ciders from different vintages, all fermented wild, then brought together for secondary fermentation in the bottle. It is a masterpiece of cider craftsmanship.
"A blend of ciders from different vintages, all fermented wild, then brought together for secondary fermentation in the bottle. It is a masterpiece of cider craftsmanship."
Barny Butterfield of Sandford Orchards had brought another on-leaf fermented creation, it was Yarlington Mill at last year’s Salon, this year it was Dabinett but he also had a control with him this time. I don’t want to spoil my reaction, so you’ll have to watch the 4-minute video to hear about it from the man himself.
The three I’d said to look out for in my blog beforehand were on form. Andy from Ganley & Naish was pouring his Rakefire, which he had tweaked since the bottle I tried and had somehow made it fresher and bolder. Polly and Mat from Find & Foster had both their Woodrow blend and a Russet, which I’d tried at Ross cider club and loved. Martin Berkeley from Pilton had his wonderful Pomme Pomme, and also his Ice and Fire, which I hadn’t tried before. The Fire is the closest to that Eden Falstaff Ice cider I have ever had, think I may have to order a bottle of that.
As with last year I ran out of time, despite the additional 15 minutes. I spoke with Gabe Cook (The Ciderologist) as everyone was packing up and mentioned the time limit, but he pointed out that any longer and people start to get a bit tipsy. I kid you not, right on cue a ‘woohoo’ echoed round the room, illustrating his point perfectly. Full disclosure, I managed to work my way through 37 different ciders and perries in the 2 hours and 15 minutes which sounds considerable, but there were 76 on offer. Still, I have to agree with Gabe, if I’d had any longer it would have been deadly.
The after party; after the clear up a group of us walked down to last year’s venue, where we sampled yet more ciders and had a pizza or two, chatting away for a good couple of hours. News then spread of a gathering at Two Belly, queue Uber order and within 10 minutes we were at the ‘after party, party’. I’m not going to pretend that I wasn’t well on my way to merry by this time (and I can’t remember what time it was). Over the next few hours we laughed a lot and sampled some rare and fantastic drinks. Gabe brought a couple of bottles, including Anatomy Traditional Method by Tinston Wines & Ciders (which popped as soon as I undid the cage). Sam Nightingale managed to persuade me to open the bottle of ‘Song Bird’ he’d given me earlier, but sharing with new friends is what it’s all about. Talking of sharing I vaguely remember opening a bottle of a very sharp and acidic eater and crab apple experiment cider that I made last year and poured it for Ryan Burke and Tom Oliver…they were very kind and complimented the cleanness of it, but it really is an acquired taste. Hopefully next time I can pour something I’m a little more proud of. As you can see from my opening bottle pose I was very merry by that point.
The night ended with cab ride back to the hotel at 3 am (thanks again to Gabe for sorting me out with a ride) where I duly passed out. Waddy partied on into the night and his night ended with a misfortunate but rather amusing story. I'll say no more. If you ever meet him you can ask 'what happened next?'
It really was a brilliant event and fantastic day. I tried to summarise it all in a tweet afterwards; “amazing people, incredible creations, inspiring atmosphere and collaborative community”, and I stand by it. Can’t wait for Cider Salon 2020.
“amazing people, incredible creations, inspiring atmosphere and collaborative community”