My Favourite drinks moments at Glastonbury
1. Bullbeggars Cider
Courtesy of our friend Stuart; a local lad, and stage manager of the Ancient Futures tent, he had a veritable lake of this. Always worth taking some good quality stuff in to trade with your neighbour (assuming he/she have brought in something better than mainstream lager in a can); needless to say, I was well stocked with my own “local” cyder, so it was fun making the exchange for this monumental Somerset brew. Produced by Lamyatt Cider, it’s named Bullbeggar after the Spirit that’s said to roam Creech Hill at night and look down on the village. It’s a village co-operative not so far from Pilton, and they have made a delightful, classic Somerset drop. It has a rich bittersweet aroma. There is a hint of volatility if I’m being hyper-critical, but it wasn’t developed enough to ruin the nose completely; an aroma some Rioja’s manage quite well. I suspect it will deteriorate badly through the summer, but at this moment in its maturation the volatility added good character. It is tooth etchingly dry up front, with a turbo astringency from the bittersweet apples. Very full-bodied as you would expect with a long, long finish that is delightfully dry. 6.5% alcohol, this is cyder like I remember the last time I was on Worthy Farm.
There are certain drinks that the moment you smell them, they don’t just take you straight back to your memory banks, they wrestle you there, and for me Chai is one. The moment I smell it I am on a train in India, at sunset, stopped at a small station; the chai is served at the carriage window in beautiful clay cups designed only to last one trip after which they are tossed without interest down to the station or onto the tracks. It is milky, spicy with cardamom and coriander, piping hot and completely delicious. I almost dare not learn how to make it, such is the trippiness of the smell of it when met unexpectedly, and I never really want that to diminish by being able to make it any time I choose. Hardeep Singh Kholi made chai at our flat a while back after Burns Night; I almost didn’t believe it possible to re-create the dusty plains of India in a flat in Hipster Douchebagville (Shoreditch), but it was the finest chai I’ve tasted in a while. He very kindly forwarded the recipe, but so far I haven’t pulled it out; I think I would OD if I did, and then how would I get my total recall hits?
3. Burrow Hill Sparkling Cider
The Cider Bus at Glastonbury; an institution – no, a legend. A trip to Glastonbury is not complete without a pint from this wonder of Somerset. Back then on my first visits, my Father knew Julian Temperley ‘vaguely’, but by no means close enough to attempt to blag a pint or even just say hello. I have got to know Julian and his wife Diana over the years through my work with The National Association of Cider Makers and he is as much an institution to cider as the bus is to Glastonbury. Whilst Julian casts the paternal eye over the set up, the show is run by the next generation on a pint by’ pint basis – Matilda (Tilly), Alice, Henry and Mary, though I’m not sure Mary was here this time as I didn’t see her. We’ve had the good fortune to get to know them over the years, and it’s always a pleasure to be able to hang out with them at various festivals. But to go “back stage” at the bus, at Glastonbury, I mean “OMG”. Some people come to get their kicks from meeting pop stars; I get mine from meeting cider heroes; I’m so rock and roll. Given the wet weather, Julian welcomed us in with a hearty mulled cider, which he soon followed up with a bottle of his delightful Burrow Hill sparkling cider. This is pretty widely available across the UK and is always worth keeping a bottle or 2 in the fridge. It is a classic, refined Somerset cider, full of heady bittersweet cedarwood aromas. The astringency gives a full body and the low acid lends a chewiness that the alcohol counters well. It has a soft but long finish which I find delightfully moreish. There’s a lot of good food at Glastonbury that this cider would go very well with; sadly I couldn’t find a hog roast stand that was open close at hand.
4. Soapdodger Cider
So, we weren’t exactly straight up paying customers at this Glastonbury. We were being generously hosted by the crew from Block9, which meant we had a backstage pass to the crew bar. This was a good little oasis away from the melee of the main arenas, and it had a more dynamic offer than the main bars. On its list was this brew; the name was not altogether enticing – was I the soap dodger or was it the maker? Given I managed a warm shower both days, it can’t have been me….. The makers of this fine brew are Glastonbury Ales, couldn’t be more appropriate name wise. It is a full on cider – a clear rich amber colour with the aroma of leather, farmyard and old-fashioned canvass bandaid – not too overwhelming, just enough to give a reminder of matron’s surgery. It’s very dry, and the low acidity means it’s not toe-curlingly dry. It has good body with a long, astringent and lingering finish, with hints of caramel and apple. It’s pretty drinkable at 4.8% abv and was another firm nod to previous Glastonbury visits
5. Bulleit Bourbon
I don’t drink that much Bourbon, and each time I do I wonder why not. I guess when it comes to my drink of choice, I prefer something long – be it a cyder, a beer, or spirit and mixer, and if I started on the Bourbon things would unravel fairly quickly. Drinking Bourbon for me has become an occasion drink. Be it a speakeasy in New York or a honky tonk bar in Chicago, the surroundings take me to Bourbon, not necessarily the desire for a bourbon itself. Our good friends from San Francisco Rae and Tomas always have a little canteen of it when we go to festivals with them in the US – and it just so happens to be Bulleit, which is from where I got my intro to it. My Bourbon moment at Glastonbury came between stages; by Saturday evening, the worst of the rains had passed, but underfoot was still a thick gloopy consistency, perfect for mud wrestling I imagined. As we focused on navigating the mud, the paths, the people, we passed by a bar and there, standing proudly at the back was a bottle of Bulleit. There were 4 in our party at this point, and my 3 companions didn’t take much persuading that a pitstop was necessary, particularly as the waters at this oasis were good. Served on the rocks – though sadly in a plastic glass – this felt both incongruous and totally perfect. Bulleit has a wonderful full toasty oak aroma from the barrels it is matured in; it has a good full palate which is quite spicy with its hints of orange peel kept in a humidor. The finish is long and warming – perfect for the wet weather down on the farm, and an ideal pick me up for us weary travellers.