Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Along Came A Cider Goes to England: Scrumpstock!

At last the time has come, and I get to write about my trip to England! I knew when we planned a hiking trip on the South Coast Path in Cornwall, I wanted to find a way to include at least a bit of cider adventuring. My first discovery was a cider festival going during our trip called Scrumpstock. 

For my readers unfamiliar with the term scrumpy, the festival is likely called Scrumpstock as a way to combine the cider term scrumpy with a hint of a reference to Woodstock, hence Scrumpstock. Scrumpy references a particularly English style of cider, but one without a clear and agreed upon definition. Wanna start a fight? Get a bunch of folks together and ask them to define scrumpy. It might mean unfiltered cider. Or cider made from apples allowed to fall on the ground before being harvested. Or cider made from juice pressed with layers of hay. Or cider only from a particular region of England. Or craft cider made in small batches with no big industrial shortcuts. And I'm afraid all of these characteristics only scratch the surface. I'm happy to hear other scrumpy characteristics in the comments; I dare you to find one I've never heard before. I'm sure they exist.

Here's a link to the festival's homepage, where one can read more about Scrumpstock: http://www.scrumpstock.co.uk

This is how the organizers succinctly explain the festival.

The Scrumpstock festival at the Exmouth Rugby Club in South Devon took place from the 15th to the 17th of May, with a wide range of quality Cider from carefully selected producers, excellent live music and much, much more.
Festivities run from 6pm Friday, until 6pm on the Sunday.

This was our weather for Saturday at Scrumpstock. I could barely believe it! Gorgeous brilliant blue skies, warm sun, and crisp breezes. We couldn't have asked for better. Enough about atmosphere and context, bring on the ciders. But how was I to choose amongst this bounty? I decided to stick to only dry and medium and only apple, no other fruits added. Mind you, this was still going to give me far more ciders than I could easily try in a day, especially when the smallest serving size was a half pint.

This is the view from behind the bar; the cider choices stretched from wall to wall, all guarded by stuffed scarecrows. My first for the day was Tricky Cider Dry. (http://www.trickycider.com/about-tricky-cider/)

The cider smells yeasty, appley and a bit bruised. I also get a ton of farmhouse and fermentation aromas. Wow, they aren't kidding to call this dry! This cider is still, dry, and astringent! I wanted to enjoy what's different about English ciders while I'm here and this is a great plunge into that territory. It looks hazy and rich in the glass and tastes leathery, citrusy, woody, grassy and farmy. Awesome.

Next, we tried Red Hen, a medium still cider from Worley's (http://www.worleyscider.co.uk). This is what they say about it:
A blend of early-season bittersweets and sharps at ABV 6.5%. Offered as a Medium, the two main characteristics of this cider are fruity apple and spice. This is a very similar blend to what we use for our popular bottled Premium Vintage cider.
A powerful fruity character is ensured by using only 100% apple juice in every batch. As always at Worley's, the freshly pressed golden cider apple juice is run into vessels and allowed to slowly ferment under the action of natural yeasts in a cool, dark barn before racking off and maturing for several months.

 This was one of my favorite ciders of the day. I got some familiar homemade apple sauce aromas along with some intriguing tart/sour notes. This cider had great balance and awesomely rich mouthfeel. It was a true medium, which is a good bit drier than many ciders labelled medium in the United States (and England too, as I was to learn later). This had a lot more acidity than the Tricky cider and some fun floral components while being cleaner than average. Simple but pleasing.

At this point, it was time for food and my husband and I shared our first Cornish Pasty: a cheddar, potato, and onion pasty. The angels sang. The earth stood still. Perfection had been reached. The combination of cider and pasty make everything wonderful. Read about them for inspiration; eat them and change your life: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pasty

After that, and some fantastic trampoline bouncing, we were ready for another round of half pints. We chose  Devon Mist (by Sandford Orchards) and Venton's Skippy's Scrumpy (dry).

You can read about Venton's Devon Cider here: http://www.ventons.co.uk  and Sandford Orchards here: http://www.sandfordorchards.co.uk

The cider on the left is the Devon Mist, and I chose it because I was ready for a sparkling cider. Most of the ciders on offer at Scrumpstock were still (non-sparkling). It smells grassy, fresh, cold, with notes of both apple and tropical fruits. This tastes more like a sweet than a medium to me with relatively low acid and surprisingly low levels of tannins. Sweet and lightly and lightly sparkling it has notes of fresh apple and pear and asian pear aplenty.

On the right, we have Skippy's Scrumpy by Venton's. this cider smells a bit salty, earthy, sweaty with some apple skin notes. I love the creamy mouthfeel caused by the combination of high tannins and high acid. It is a bit leathery and not completely dry. This didn't have barnyard in the flavor, though the smell led me to expect it. I like the orange peel bitterness and subtle sparkle.

After these, we had some delicious cupcakes and walked around town a bit before returning in time to see The Go Go Cult (http://www.thegogocult.com/GoGoCultSite/Welcome.html). While it was a bit surreal to enjoy gothabilly music at a daytime outdoor festival; I enjoyed them tremendously, and I know I wasn't the only one.

Our last cider of the day of was Hunt's Farm Cider Medium (http://www.huntscider.co.uk) . It smelled barny, nutty, and mild, and like freshly washed apples. Another still cider, but this one more clear than many. I noticed huge levels of tannins and flavors like maple, oak, burnt matches, with some tartness and good body. Really interesting thing about this cider is that it is a completely wild ferment that gets aged two years before release. This couldn't be more different than a lot of the ciders here, and both styles have their distinct advantages.

There were so many great ciders and vendors, I truly wish I could have tried them all. Scrumpstock was a fantastic day filled with good tastes and glorious sunshine.