A New Home for Bristol’s Top Cider Shop

The thing I enjoy most about this blogging game is that it allows me to throw light on good people doing good things in and around Bristol. When I moved here 6 months ago, one of those good people was Pete Snowman — owner of the Bristol Cider Shop. I went along to one of his wonderful tasting sessions and produced a few lines on the subject.

The latest news from Bristol Cider Shop HQ is they’ve moved from their previous spot on Christmas Steps to the stylish and contemporary confines of Cargo, on Wapping Wharf. (If you’re not sure where that is, it’s by the Harbour on the corner of M-Shed.)

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The Cider Shop is one of the first Bristol businesses to establish itself in Cargo, and the doors will swing open to the city’s cider-loving public on Saturday the 15th October. As before, the shop will showcase a superb range of real cider and perry from Somerset, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and beyond, but the focus has grown to include cider-and-food pairings.

Alongside the shop, the cider café will serve traditional cider-related food such as pork-and-cider pies by day. By night, the venue will host those wonderful cider-tasting evenings for which the Bristol Cider Shop is famous. During the tastings, participants will step into the world of cider and learn how pairing it with cheese brings out the delicious flavours. Like the cider, the food will all be sourced locally from independent producers. So it’s good news all round, really.

Once up and running, The Cider Shop plan to host tasting evenings every Friday night. Alongside this, we can expect a calendar full of cider-and food-matching evenings, cider dinners and ‘Meet the Producer’ sessions. Groups can book private tasting sessions, and the venue will even be hosting cider-themed Christmas parties for the first time.

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To book a tasting, to check out the online shop, or to see details on the ciders available, contact The Cider Shop here. Tastings cost £20 per person and include 10 award-winning ciders, Somerset Cider Brandy plus bread and cheese. Highly recommended. Cheers babbers.

The West Country in a Glass

With fertile orchards flourishing across Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire, the West Country is surely the home of cider in the UK. In Somerset alone, traditional cider-makers ply their trade in the Quantock Hills, through Yeovil, Glastonbury, Cheddar and into the Mendips to Bath, preserving a trade that dates from time immemorial.

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Somerset Cider & Apple Juice; a Guide to Orchards and Cider-Makers.

A year-round industry

For cider-makers, the work never stops. The orchards must be pruned and protected during winter, while the last year’s harvest needs careful blending. March and into spring is the planting season, during which the roots are laid for cider-drinking generations to come.

Through summer, the blossom blooms and the apples start to form on the boughs. September, October and November is harvest time — perhaps the hardest but most important part of the cycle. Then, before winter ticks round again, the apples are pressed and prepared for fermentation.

And the results? Well, bittersweet apple varieties such as Royal Jersey, Brown Snout and Vilberie come together with sweet and sharp varieties like Court Royal and Crimson King to produce a massive range of colour and flavour, with traditional ciders — from sweet to dry — to suit all palates.

Cider-tasting in the heart of Bristol

The Cider Shop currently takes pride of place on Christmas Steps — but is moving to Cargo on Wapping Wharf, behind M-Shed, in July — and is Bristol’s very own ode to cider. With the tell-tale tagline ‘We sell cider’, Manager Pete welcomes cider drinkers from novice to expert into his shop, and waxes lyrical with expertise and enthusiasm on the flavours and styles available.

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Regular tasting sessions take place, during which connoisseurs-in-the-making can sample 10 different blends of cider, perry and even apple brandy. Each new drop is introduced with affection and care, including details of the orchard, style of production and of course flavours to look out for.

The selection

Whether you’re a cider fan of some years’ standing or new to the apple juice with a kick, broaden your appreciation with a trip down there. I did, and here’s wot I drank.

Christmas Steps, Handmade Cider (6.5%) Wiltshire
Pilton (5.5%) Somerset
Vintage, Oliver’s Cider & Perry (7.3%) Herefordshire
Yarlington Mill, Ty Gwyn (5.8%) Monmouthshire
Somerset Redstreak, Perry’s Cider (6.1%) Somerset
Court Royal, Dunkertons (7.5%) Herefordshire
Blackberry & Elderflower, Sheppy’s (4%) Somerset
Perry, Hallets Real Cider (4.5%) Caerphilly
Blakeney Red Perry, Gwatkin (7.5%) Herefordshire
Somerset Royal, Somerset Cider Brandy Company (42%) Somerset

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Cider, as far as the eye can see.

This blog was put together with help from Pete at the Bristol Cider Shop and ‘Somerset Cider & Apple Juice; a Guide to Orchards and Cider-Makers’, compiled by James Crowden and Nell Barrington.

5 Top Boozers on Bristol Harbour

From the sheltered waters of the Cumberland Basin to the cobbled corners of the Arnolfini, thirsty drinkers in need of liquid sustenance have a superb selection of pubs to choose from in Bristol Harbour.

In the 3 weeks since S and I set up home on Spike Island, I’ve darkened the doorways of a fair few of them. I’ve wet my whistle with fine ales from nationally known breweries like Butcome and local ones like Wiper and True, and tickled my taste buds with dry ciders from the orchards of Somerset. Here, dear reader, are my findings.

I’ve called this blog 5 Top Boozers on Bristol Harbour — not Top 5 Boozers on Bristol Harbour — because the list is so open to personal taste. (Jus’ sayin’.)

Pump House

The Pump House takes pride of place at the head of the Cumberland Basin, with fine views over the bridges and waterways. The sun-trap terrace out front attracts thirsty drinkers on warm days and the a la carte menu is full of seasonal produce from the local area.

The pub’s main draw though, to my mind, is the spectacular gin selection. If you appreciate your botanicals and you’re looking for somewhere to sample a broad range under one roof, take yourself off to the Pump House and dive in.

The Orchard

The Orchard is tucked away on a quiet street between Spike Island Studios and Bristol Marina — a hidden gem popular among cider drinkers with a taste for the good stuff. It’s one of the closest pubs to my gaff, and I couldn’t be happier with it!

First impressions from the outside are misleading — it looks like it could use a little TLC — but the feel on stepping inside is warm and welcoming. Bar staff are friendly and knowledgeable, you can pick up a pasty or a home-made sandwich to line your guts for the cider and they have live music in there every week. What more do you want?!

orchImage courtesy of The Orchard

There’s a strong selection of barrelled ales behind the bar featuring breweries from Cornwall to London — and they’re on regular rotation, too — but it’s the cider that people seem to love The Orchard for.

The Mardyke

I took a punt on The Mardyke on a stroll home last week and was very pleasantly surprised. It sits on the busy Hotwell Road but inside it was peaceful enough. Snooker and footy were beaming in from the two telly screens but that didn’t bother me — I was far too busy admiring the vintage metal placards adorning the walls.

There was a small but decent selection of ales on the bar and plenty of ciders on offer too, and the pint I had hit the spot perfectly. When a round of 2 drinks came to only £4 I had to ask the barman if there’d been a mistake… There hadn’t. It’s an atmospheric pub offering great value for money, with plenty of nooks and crannies for secretive supping.

The Cottage

Next time you’re strolling out toward the SS Great Britain’s mooring spot, head past the famous ship and keep walking. The Cottage is nestled on the edge of the harbour, with a terrace out front and panoramic views all the way from Underfell Boatyard over the colourful house-fronts of Hotwells.

cottImage courtesy of The Cottage

The interior is fitted out like a traditional British pub should be and the service is very friendly. Even more importantly than that, it’s a Butcombe pub so you can be sure of a good pint.

The Grain Barge

One of the best things about a harbourside city is surely the floating pubs, and the Grain Barge is a fine example. It hugs the Hotwells harbourside — a perfect spot for watching the tall ships and river cruisers drift by.

The barge began life ferrying barley, wheat and other grains across the Severn Estuary to Cardiff. Following a complete repurposing, it now offers a broad menu with specials updated daily and a strong selection of Bristol Beer Factory’s diverse brews.

Heads up… Wednesdays in the Grain Barge is Pie & Pint night — with a free pint of BBF ale when you order a pie — and if you visit on a Thursday they run an offer on steaks for a tenner!

If there are any other decent pubs around Bristol you’d recommend, please comment below or tweet @cjcallaghan. Am I missing any I really should know about?!

Further reading:

Pump House: http://the-pumphouse.com/

The Cottage: http://www.cottage.butcombe.com/

The Mardyke: http://www.mardykegroup.co.uk/

The Orchard: http://theorchardinn.co.uk/

The Grain Barge: http://www.grainbarge.co.uk/