“One more song,one more song,” the chants filled the air, the atmosphere pulsing with excitement. The coloured lights flickered across the ceiling, occasional shimmers of gold reflected off the crowd from a certain bold jacket (you know who you are). You could be forgiven for assuming that I’m at an arena but I’m not…this is the closing night of Ross Cider Festival being rocked by ‘Burnside’. Hidden away in an idyllic Herefordshire valley this annual event captures the heart of a small (by festival standards) but dedicated and extremely friendly crowd. My first visit with family and friends in tow certainly increased our love for Broome Farm and cemented what will from now on be our annual pilgrimage.
As I sat in the main barn the following morning listening to Floaty & Special, whilst eating one last amazing stone baked pizza, I reflected on what was a marvellous weekend.
Thursday’s Cider Club was the perfect start, with Haritz (aka Ciderzale) leading us on a wonderful Basque sidra journey. Acid led Sagardo naturala’s (natural ciders), a marvellous sparkling sagardo ararduna (mellow cider) and a sublime sidra de postre (dessert cider). This was followed by Albert sharing 6 of Ross Ciders’ latest releases including the hotly anticipated Raison D’Etre 2017 and Pet Nat, both of which if you haven’t tried yet, I can assure you are something very special.
Friday was the main arrival day, and despite an already bustling site, the crowds kept coming. The sun was shining, the ciders were flowing, the atmosphere was fantastic. Thanks to a cidermakers slot, I had the privilege of sharing some of my own creations with some of the other cider makers and festival goers in attendance. Beardspoon, Brennans, Naked Cider and Four Acres Estate to name a few. It was humbling to share and receive honest feedback. It was also fun to do a bit of an experiment with Albert, comparing Dabinett ciders both made from Ross Cider apples. Same juice, from the same apples, from the same orchards, the only difference being that I took some home last year and fermented it in Lincolnshire. There was a definite difference and I still can’t figure out exactly why. The evening of music and sharing cider with friends new and old passed by too quickly.
If Friday was cidery heaven then Saturday was euphoria. Firstly it saw the arrival of 10 different cider makers, each sharing their own creations. I could have happily spent hours in the cider barn and I did, discovering new producers and their creations as well as reacquainting myself with past favourites. A few stand outs for me:
1.Bartestree Cider: Along Came A Cider, a keeved, pure juice, bottle conditioned, medium cider. Sumptuous natural sweetness.
2.Greggs Pit: 2017 Brown Snout, Chisel Jersey & White Close Pippin. A manifestation of pure blending skill to create an outstanding cider.
3.Four Acres Estate: méthode champenoise whiskey barrel aged. It was smokin!
4.Palmers Upland Cyder: Rioja Cask. Wood, red wine and tannic apples, what’s not to love.
Later a further unofficial makers share was organised in the orchard. Sitting with some of the UK’s best craft producers sharing and chewing the fat was inspiring. Another evening of festivities passed by culminating in joining the chant for “one more song”.
In between all this there was wonderful food from Broome Farm Kitchen and orchard raised lamb. A morning trip to the local butterfly farm with the family, glitter face painting, too many goes on the tombola, fun with the fair games and a stealthy Indy (cider dog) stealing my bed. Can’t wait for next year. Wassail.