We came to Weymouth from Devon, along the A35. Lots of handmade signboards with an arrow pointing up a farm track with a promise of cider at the end of it. We were running late, but temptation was too great when we saw the sign for the award winning Lyme Bay Winery And Cider Press. I like cider. Mrs Wheels likes wine. Little Wheels has yet to declare. A verdant B-road took us past the gatehouse of Shute Barton and the ghost station of Seaton Junction. At the end of a row of small industrial units a smiling lady was taking down the ‘open’ sign from the winery’s gatepost.
‘But we’ll still sell you something. Come on in’.
Their cider comes in bottles or vom fass – two enormous barrels are behind the counter – which is what I went for. Five minutes later I was squeezing into the car boot what looked like an economy-sized bottle of brown screenwash
The Jack Ratt Scrumpy I bought (named after a Dorset smuggler, apparently) survived its journey back to The Smoke well. Completely still, it poured a renal-looking dark yellow. Smooth and tart but with no men-from-the-boys sourness of some scrumpies. Big on farm and countryside notes, it’s like drinking a cross-section of the Dorset landscape. Rain on a molehill. The freshly-cut turf of a new grave. Great gobfuls of fresh apples. Perhaps it would benefit from the lift of slight carbonation, but what do I know? I used to put ice in my real cider.
What? Yes. I invented cider over ice at least 15 years before Magners, back In the pre-art college days when I still had hair and a waist. We used to drink what we called Thatchers Falling Down Fluid at the Fighting Cock in Bradford, one of the first self-consciously Real (with a capital R) ale pubs in the area. It was disgusting, but strong and cheap and really did have bits of apple floating in it (or bits of dead rat, as the barman half-jokingly claimed). Ideal tackle to fortify onesself in the never-ending (and largely unsuccessful) quest to ‘pull’ a Bradford Uni student up the road at the legendary Tumblers indie club. To kill the flavour we used to top it up with ice cubes. Now it can be told.