Roll up for a barrel of laughs – and fermented apples. Time Out’s cider correspondent Phil Harriss reports on the boom in pubs serving artisanal ciders. Do you agree with the choices? Use the comments box below or tweet your suggestions.
Born in the dark days of the 1980s, when Babychams and Woodpeckers stalked the earth, this Pimlico bar-restaurant has long championed artisanal cider and perry (the pear version). You’ll find a dozen powerful fermentations here: five are served from chilled flagons (including the popular Biddenden Dry from Kent), by the bottle or on draught. Order a speciality pie and a two-pint jug of organic Westons Wyld Wood (6.5 percent abv, £9.25), park yourself at a wooden table in the bucolic interior and settle in for the night. Those who prefer a lighter tipple could go for a bottle of Stowford Press LA (0.5 percent).
This younger but bigger brother of Stoke Newington’s Jolly Butchers (see below) quickly gained acclaim for the eye-catching battalion of hand pumps behind its bar. True, many of these disgorge real ale (and there’s a sizeable choice of craft beers), but cider drinkers have plenty to mull over. Try a pint of Whisky Cask cider from East Lothian’s Thistly Cross (tinged with the flavour of Scotland’s more traditional drink) or Thundering Molly (medium, 5.2 percent abv) from Herefordshire’s Celtic Marches. Sandford Orchards’ selection ranges from traditional, still, Devon Scrumpy (6 percent) to Fanny’s Bramble (4 percent), which is doctored with blackberries.
Heroically attempting to create a rustic oasis by the Euston Road, the Cider Tap occupies one of the monumental old gatehouses standing proud before Euston Station (the other houses its sibling, the craft-beer loving Euston Tap). Fermented apple juice in its many guises takes centre stage, including cider from Cambridgeshire’s Pickled Pig, rarely found in these parts and served straight from the wooden cask. You’ll also encounter proper perry (made from perry pears), with Oliver’s Rock (named after the round, hard variety of pear) leading the way. About half of the dozen choices are carbonated; the others are still.
Purists might wince at the number of keg ciders kept in the capacious old Green Man, but these aren’t the usual mass-produced, low-fruit-content travesties. Westons of Much Marcle in Herefordshire is the main supplier: Mortimer’s Orchard (medium sweet, 4.1 percent abv) is one of a handful of carbonated choices. Westons also supplies the two cloudy, real ciders on draught: the powerful Old Rosie (7.3 percent abv) and lighter Rosie’s Pig (4.8 percent). Indie music and a youthful vibe accompany your pint here.
Kevin Doody manages this idiosyncratic, folklore-inspired new pub conversion for JaguarShoes Collective, indulging an enthusiasm for gin (he infuses the stuff himself) and cider. The bag-in-box collection of the latter changes every couple of days, with a choice of three that always includes a ‘deadly’ cider (more than 5 percent abv, recently Dog Dancer by Gwynt Y Ddraig at 6.5 percent) as well as lighter drinks such as Lily The Pink from Celtic Marches (4.5 percent). The sourcing stretches far and wide, even encompassing Janet’s Jungle Juice (6 percent) a medium-dry number from West Croft Farm in Somerset.
Fuller’s recently took over this cherished little bolthole near Trafalgar Square, but the Chiswick brewer sensibly hasn’t messed about with the Camra multi-award winner. Real cider from an impressive bunch of independent producers remains a real draw. Fridges are packed with a regularly changing batch of bag-in-box ciders: often something from Millwhites, London Glider (perry as well as cider) and Orchard Pig (Philosopher, perhaps). Despite the great choice (around eight at any one time), your cider is unlikely to have been hanging around for long: ‘We get through two to three boxes a day,’ our bartender told us.
Since a 2009 refit rescued it from abandonment, Howl has gained Camra plaudits for its local ales while also attracting Hoxton’s hyper-hip. (Did the two crowds meet with a mutual ‘nice beard’?) Arctic Monkeys shot the video to ‘Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?’ here last year. Perhaps they’d been imbibing bag-in-box Happy Daze (by Gwynt Y Ddraig) or Crazy Goat (brewed in Frome by Lilleys). Sandford’s Devon Red (4.5 percent abv) is a keg alternative. The music’s good too.
London’s craft beers and real ales get a good outing at the Butchers, which gained vim and vigour from a bare-boards-and-brick refurb a few years ago. The fruits of the orchard aren’t neglected, mind, with Sandford’s Pear Shaped (a hefty perry at 7 percent abv), Hallets’ National Treasure (a sweet cider from Wales) and various of Hogan’s admirable output all on draught recently, backed up by kegs from the likes of Thistly Cross and a roster of bottles.
The enthusiasts who run this friendly, hip bar source ciders directly from producers. One intrepid traveller made the trip from The Miller’s gritty, council-estate locality to a rural idyll in Hewish, Somerset, returning with a barrel of Ben Crossman’s Prime Farmhouse cider. Another recent outing to the same county resulted in a supply of Heck’s cider from Middle Leigh. The oft-changing choice might also include ranges from Cornish Orchard or Burrow Hill. Local craft beers and real ales are much in evidence too, and there’s a music venue upstairs.
An antidote to gastropub flummery, the wonderful Southampton Arms harks back to the brown-hued, ‘fancy a pork pie?’ days of the 1940s. Basic decor and an array of real ales from worthy independent breweries continue the theme, as does the fast-changing choice of eight real ciders, hand-drawn from the cellar. You won’t find fizzy stuff bastardised by kiwi fruit or whatnot here – just still, pure cider from the likes of Gwatkin, Gwynt Y Ddraig and Wilkins. And don’t even think of paying by card: it’s cash only here.
Since its rescue by the owners of Highgate’s Red Lion & Sun in 2013, the Wenlock has been doing good business, with fermented apple juice at its core. A total of six ciders are on draught – the likes of Slack Alice (medium, with a slightly tart finish, 4.6 percent abv) and Lily the Pink (both from Celtic Marches), and Skyborry from Wales as well as Breton cider on keg. Some of the booth seating may have gone, and a new back room has been opened, but this remains a no-frills drinkers’ haven.
Icon Balcony Bar
The Icon Balcony Bar is part of the Casino at the Empire complex. The candlelit cocktail lounge, with a balcony overlooking Leicester Square, is decorated in a style reminiscent of a French boudoir, with chandeliers, antique wallpaper, exposed brickwork and opulent crimson furnishings. The bar has an eclectic drinks list including boutique beers from around the world, plus a decent wine selection. Classic cocktails also feature – think black russians, mojitos, cosmopolitans, Champagne cocktails and old fashioneds.