Peter Snowman from Bristol Cider Shop answers my Cider questions:
Cider’s great isn’t it? I mean warm (with cinnamon – mmm) or nice and icy – or actually even luke warm – old chirpy McCider pulls it off. Admittedly I have felt the after affects of a sun blast mixed with an afternoon and evening of cider love, but it’s such a happy drink, I’m never left with anger for the apple delight. I think this is because I tend to drink it when I’m watching live music, on a beach, in a field, or just generally feeling contented… glowy. Don’t laugh. I’m not sure why these particular occasions always seem to be my cider times, it just always works out that way. Pleasantly I find too, that drinking one more cider (apart from Old Rose) as opposed to wine, which leaves me feeling groggy, or vodka which fills me with vodka hate, is juuust fiiine.
Now, there are a huge array of ciders. Beautiful and golden, they are real ciders – not like White Lightening or Three Hammers etc. which many a West Country fellow would surely shudder at. Personally I never really used to touch cider before I moved to Cornwall. Then I started to notice all the pretty Weston’s Organic etc. bottles – yes I am a packaging lover – I can’t help it. But apart from the aesthetically pleasing bottles, I thought I would reuse as vases or olive oil holders, of course many of the pubs also served many varieties of cider in the standard pint glass. Many an evening was spent dancing to traditional Irish Folk in Cornwall, with cider bubbling over glasses in our hands. Merriment. Anyway since moving to Bristol, I’ve noticed the extraordinarily deep love for cider, shared amongst the city. Then just before Christmas, there opened a super cider shop. So, I asked the owner of Bristol Cider Shop on The Christmas Steps – opposite the lovely Shop– one of my favourite shops & community spaces – some questions.
When and why did you set up the cider shop?
We opened on December 1. We love cider and it just seemed a bit mad that there wasn’t a cider shop in Bristol.
What is your cider background?
Mostly drinking it! Nick (Davis – the other half of the cider shop) is a tree surgeon so has spent lots of time in orchards. I spend more time in The Orchard (the pub)!
How important is cider to the West Country?
Cider is one of the oldest and most important industries in the West Country. It has sustained rural communities for generations and has provided employment for whole families for hundreds of years. At one time people were even paid some of their wages in cider.
And the country… and world?
Cider’s is Britain’s national drink. It pre-dates beer by hundreds of years and has been a fundamental part of our heritage since medieval times. Cider has long been drunk by royalty in favour of European wine and even King Arthur’s legendary Avalon means the Island of Apples.
Have you seen the popularity of cider rise in recent years? Why?
The popularity of cider has grown enormously in the last 10 years. While this is partly due to the ‘Magners effect’, real cider closely reflects social trends: it is natural, organic, locally sourced, independently produced and recession-friendly (high quality/ low cost/ grow your own/ drink at home).
What do you think the image of cider is?
I think the image of cider has changed a lot. It used to be seen as a bit of a country bumpkin drink, especially with its connection to the Wurzels. But now artisan producers are making some amazingly refined ciders which rival wine and champagne.
What is your most popular cider? Why do you think it is so popular?
Somewhat surprisingly for a shop in Bristol, our most popular cider is Black Dragon, which is from South Wales. It is very accessible and incredibly easy drinking – although it packs a punch at 7.2% ABV.
What’s the strongest cider you stock?
Most of our ciders are between 6% and 7.5% but the strongest so far is Burrow Hill Bottle Fermented Stoke Red at 8%.
What would you suggest eating with a pint of cider?
Cheese goes very well with cider – a good Somerset cheddar is the perfect accompaniment to a pint of cider. In terms of cooking with cider, pork tends to work very well – and you can’t beat a good pork pie!
What do you think of when you take your first sip of cider – of the day?
I am constantly surprised by just how good cider can be. It is the most natural drink there is (all of our ciders are made from 100% juice) and good cider tastes so fresh and healthy – just like eating the juiciest apple you’ve ever eaten.
What the cider future?
The future’s bright, the future’s cider!
And the shop?
We’ve only been open for four months so we don’t want to get carried away – but we’ve got so many ideas of amazing cider related things we could do I think it’s going to be one hell of a year!