Categories
bristol cider

The Cider Box, Bristol

It’s taken us a while to get to the Cider Box, despite walking past it most days.

That’s partly because it’s only open on Friday evenings and Saturdays and partly, if we’re honest, because cider tends to be very much a second choice for us.

But it’s probably our closest active licenced premises and can look quite inviting on a warm evening.

It’s in a railway arch on Silverthorne Lane, next to a mechanic, opposite one of a number of abandoned Victorian industrial buildings.

It’s a short distance from a number of East Bristol tap rooms but in the wrong direction.

The area is going to be the focus of a new industrial heritage conservation area so no doubt in five to ten years, these arches will be full of similar businesses. At the moment, though, it’s pretty quiet, with grey stone walls overlooking a no-through road that’s unfortunately popular with fly tippers.

Most people are on tables outside whenever we’ve been past and on the night of our visit it was no different. Inside, it feels cosier than the average tap room, possibly because of the posters, memorabilia and bubbling bartop carboys that proclaim a real love of cider.

Handwashing advice using the lyrics of 'I Am a Zyder Drinker' by the Wurzels.
Remember this gag from 2020?

In general, the place feels more Bristolian and a little funkier than most of the local craft beer taprooms which, let’s face it, could often be in any other UK or world city.

The music was a mix of Hip Hop Don’t Stop and Abba (this was the day the new album came out) and people with a range of accents, from West Country to Welsh, burst into occasional song.

Beer is available – Lost and Grounded Keller Pils – but this place is really about cider in all its forms.

Some come from the tap, brisk and bright, very much designed to chug without too much reflection. Some are of the bag-in-a-box variety. There is even a ‘Cider Royale’ section of the menu, featuring 750ml sharing bottles.

We kicked off with some kind of own-brand option (from a tap, rather than a bag in the box) which got us firmly in the zone – sweet and faintly rural, not dry enough for our taste, but a good warm up for the taste buds.

Our next two came from Totterdown producers Ganley & Naish. One was advertised as a single variety cider but we’re not sure which variety; it was dry and oaky (and added a great extra note to the own-brand leftovers that Jess was nursing).

Mourning Drop is described on their website as a ‘single orchard’ cider, which seems to mean a bunch of apple varieties. This one was weird – woody, almost fungal.

With just three rounds, we were delivered a reminder of the variety of cider out there to enjoy. Or, at least, to experience.

Every now and then, a bat sliced through the air above our heads, and at one point what looked like a thousand seagulls, illuminated from below by streetlights, scattered across the sky indigo sky. Everyone stared upward and pointed in cider-addled delight.

A vandalised phone box.
When you’ve had a few ciders, you stop to take photos like this.

To finish, we chose a bottle from the fancy bottle section and, boy, did that blow our minds. Pilton One Juice is the result of a project in which five separate makers produce their own cider from the same juice. It was utterly, smile-inducingly delightful. Simultaneously sweet, full-bodied and dry, every mouthful highlighted some new, intense, wonderful flavour.

Perhaps we do love cider after all.

We swayed off home under the railway bridges as Chiquitita echoed off the walls of the old timber yard, chatting excitedly about apples, and very much looking forward to our next visit.

Categories
beer reviews bristol

Walking in a lager wonderland

Baltic porter, Schwarzbier, Helles, Kellerpils, Dunkel, Altbier, Saison, Tripel – Lost & Grounded’s embrace and mastery of Continental beer styles continues to delight us.

For our third round of drinking out since things sort-of reopened on 12 April we went, again, to their taproom about ten minutes from our house. It’s peaceful, well managed and, of course, convenient. That we are developing a crush on the beer doesn’t hurt either.

On this most recent trip, we started with Helles, at 4.4% and £5 a pint. It is still excellent – although perhaps this time it seemed a little softer and more hazy than when we first encountered it a few weeks back.

Long Story, a table beer at 3.2% with pronounced Belgian yeast character, was less successful, with a stale, papery note haunting its tail. But Ray was less bothered by that than Jess; perhaps you’ll love it.

We then moved on to the Schwarzbier, Amplify Your Sound, at 5.2% and £5.50 a pint. Billed simply as ‘dark lager’, you might expect a Dunkel, but this is definitely a degree beyond that – vinyl black, with a coffee-cream head. There is perhaps a passing note of grassy hops but, in the main, this is about the treacly bass notes. Mild without the mud; more well-polished Porsche than Morris Minor.

How often do you see a Baltic porter on offer? We reckon that, for us, it’s been maybe five times in our entire 14-years of beer blogging. So, even if you’re already feeling a bit giddy and 6.8% seems scary, even if it’s £6.50 a pint, you’re obliged by law to order at least a half.

Fortunately, with Running With Spectres (a play on the name of their regular beer Running With Sceptres) Lost & Grounded have nailed it. Rich without being sickly, figgy pudding fruity, it feels like a dignified rebuke to the marshmallow sundae imperial stout merchants. You could also label it ‘double stout’, we reckon – another style that barely exists but which tends to be more warming than intimidating.

Between L&G and Zero Degrees, we’re a little spoiled in Bristol for serious attempts to brew in European styles. But we’d still welcome perhaps one or two more – especially someone who might fancy cloning Jever.

Categories
News pubs

News, Nuggets & Longreads 5 January 2019: Gratitude and Onions

Here’s everything that grabbed our attention in the past few weeks (given that we took Christmas off) from St Albans to air raid shelters.

At The Pursuit of Abbeyness Martin Steward asks an excellent question: why do people visit brewery taprooms?

On the face of it, this is an odd thing to do. Breweries without taprooms may give you a taste of their beer, but they are hardly places to kick back and put the world to rights over a good session. They can be interesting for beer lovers, but, if we’re honest, setting aside the few with special architectural, historical or brewing points of interest, one is much the same as another.

But perhaps there is something deeper going on:

When we knock on the door of a pokey little brewery at the ragged end of a rainswept industrial estate, are we really responding to a soul-deep thirst to express our gratitude, in person, to the brewers of our much-loved beer?

Categories
News pubs

News, Nuggets & Longreads 20 January 2018: Listening, Little Pubs, Lemp

Here’s all the beer- and pub-writing that we bookmarked in the last week, from personal experiences to industry rumblings.

First, a piece that we’ve been needing to read: for Good Beer Hunting Lily Waite (@QueerBeerBrewCo) gives us an account of life as a trans woman in the UK beer industry.  One primary theme is frustration at the smug assumption that the world of beer is somehow above prejudice:

Too often, the responsibility and labour of initiating change is left to those who need it most. Too often do we have to fight until exhaustion. If everyone in the beer industry—an industry that could be so much more inclusive (and benefit from that exponentially)—worked toward a common goal of not alienating the already marginalised, then we would truly begin to see a craft beer industry that is actually as welcoming and egalitarian as the majority—cis, straight men—within it think it currently is.

And perhaps the key takeaway from discussion around this post on Twitter: you are not legally obliged to cut in with an opinion unless you have some personal insight or experience; it’s fine to listen, reflect, and share.


SIBA, the organisation which represents a substantial number of independent British breweries, has appointed Jaega Wise of Wild Card Brewing as a director following a vote at the South East regional AGM. This is a strong statement given Ms. Wise’s prominence as a critic of sexism in the beer industry, most recently in a high-profile piece by Kaleigh Watterson for the BBC News website.


In the US several items of news have arrived together creating a sense of unease — is the long-anticipated shake-out finally here? Smuttynose Brewing of New Hampshire is to be sold at auction blaming rising competition for failure to meet its growth targets; Green Flash Brewing of San Diego has decided to stop distributing beer in 32 US states and will be laying off 15 per cent of its staff; and Mendocino Brewing has closed down along with a sister company in New York. (Details via Brewbound: 1 | 2 | 3)