Tag Archives: Strongbow

Traveling in Europe: Horley, England

pub, public house, Horley, England, cider, travel

Six Bells--You can see how low the ceiling is.

My recent trip to Europe began with flying into Gatwick airport, which is south of Victoria Station by a half-hour train ride. I stayed in Horley, Surrey (a suburb next to the airport) because I was only there for a day and a half. The first night, after a nap to reset my clock, I just wandered down the road to Ye Olde Six Bells. It was quite dark with inadequate lighting. I also brushed against overgrown nettles. Luckily it was just a light brush because my leg itched for about an hour.

The history of this pub goes back around 700 years, when a man named Norman Lord want refreshment to get through the long sermons at St. Bartholomew’s. A place that old has whitewashed walls, huge dark wooden beams, low ceilings and rambling rooms. I imagine that over the centuries the rooms were added one at a time, the wooden floored ones being the oldest, though no floors would be original. The first floor might very well have been packed earth and straw spread  over it.

pub, restaurant, Ye Olde Six Bells, medieval, public house, Horley, Surrey

A conglomeration of woods.

Buildings throughout the medieval era were white washed to preserve the mortaring and stonework and to add light to dark structures only lit by candles and oil lamps. Six Bells was all of this, with a note on the ceilings saying “Duck or Grouse.” Above the bar it said, “Before you ask, yes we have hit our heads a lot.” Since this seem to be the normal height for old pubs I must assume that people were shorter at one time, plus I imagine the places were time consuming and expensive to build, and space wasn’t wasted on high ceilings. It may have kept the warmth in as well.

Unlike North American pubs, many British ale houses or public houses are part restaurant and you’ll see people bringing their children. The central and oldest area is the bar, and rooms jut off in three directions for diners to sit.

The Six Bells menu is quite extensive and I had  a fish pie, since it seemed traditional British fare; a mixture of peas (the English love their peas), potatoes, shrimp, smoked haddock and cod in a white wine, coriander cream sauce, with a salad of red onion, tomato, spinach and tongues of cucumber in a simple vinaigrette. It was tasty and filling, costing around 10 pounds. I was too full to try dessert, which some British just call puddings in a generic way. I like to sample new ciders and England is the place to do it. I tried the Aspall Suffolk cider at 5.5% alcohol (higher than most of the beers on tap). This drink worked very well with the smoky taste of the pie and I think the food brought out the cider’s flavor. Aspall is a light golden color, light on the tongue (medium effervescence), crisp apple taste and not overly dry. The flavor isn’t too strong but it’s more noticeable than Strongbow’s nondescript taste. Of all the ciders I tried on my trip this one remains one of my favorites.

cider, drinks, alcohol, Aspall cider, apple cider, food, travel

Aspall Suffolk Cider

food, dining, public houses, Ye Olde Six Bells, travel, Horley, British food

The fish pie at Ye Olde Six Bells

I would recommend Ye Olde Six Bells. The rest of Horley seemed rather small. The second night I had Chinese food and though it was a simple fare of broccoli, chicken and mushrooms I found the chicken tasted old. Not bad but not fresh, and I’m quite sensitive to the change in meat flavors. It could have contributed to the stomach unrest that hit me the next day as I arrived in Amsterdam.

Ye Olde Six Bells, Horley, England, restaurants, travel, food, dining, pub

Six Bells at night: a conglomerate of eras

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A Short Review of Cider

cider, apple cider, alcohol, drinks, Rekorderlig, Strongbow, Bulmers

Rekorderlig Wild Berry Cider

My first taste of alcoholic cider was in England, lo these many years ago. It might have been Strongbow but I actually don’t remember anymore. I’ve become quite the cider connoisseur over the years, taking every opportunity to try as many as possible. Strongbow, once it was available here, became my standby and you can find it in most Vancouver restaurants with it or Rock Creek on tap in many.

Most of the US ciders I’ve had tend to be flatter in taste and effervescence, and slightly sweeter. Next time I try one I’ll do a review.

I’m always on the lookout for a good dry cider. When I first tasted cider in England I could barely get it down and it almost tasted like beer to me. (I don’t drink beer because I”m allergic to the hops.) I think that was just the dry aspect of it. But as it turns out, it would be my first love and I would search the world over for another cider as dry and crisp.

Common in Vancouver, cider is served with a slice of lime, just like the British do it. (Addendum: When in Britain last year they told me they never put lime in their cider, but I’m sure I drank it there first. So either they no longer do it, or I drank too much cider.) When I was in Ireland, enthused to be able to try all the types of Irish ciders, I asked for lime with my drink. I was given a subtle look and then my cider would arrive with no lime. After the third time I realized, oh, the British do that, not the Irish. Bulmer’s cider was the brand and it’s one company in England I believe that makes and distributes it with different names depending on the country (Magner’s and Bulmer’s is the same). It was pretty much the only cider in Ireland, except for Stag’s Head, which was by the same company, as well as an extremely sweet Danish cider that I tried in Dublin.

Once in a while our liquor store gets in other ciders. The BC ciders made by such companies as Okanagan and Growers are fruity alcohol drinks that have as much in common with traditional cider as ketchup has with mustard. I can’t drink them anymore because they are just too sweet. They’re made to cater to the younger college crowd and women but some of us have refined our tastes.

The other day I picked up a can (500 ml) of Rekorderlig wild berry cider ($2.99). As you can see from the picture it’s a pleasant pinky color. Like most Canadian ciders it comes in at 7% alcohol/volume. This is as much as or more than some beers. Rekorderlig is a Swedish pear cider.

I don’t tend to like pear ciders in general. They’re too sweet and indeed this was sweet but not as bad as I thought it would be, and not as sweet as most BC ciders. There is a distinct taste of berries and a good level of effervescence. Over all, it went down nicely on a hot day, served over ice with a slice of lime. Why the lime? I’m not sure why the British first started doing it but I find it can add a slight tang and if the cider is too sweet the lime cuts that a bit.

I don’t know if this cider is made as a true cider, which requires cider apples, but for someone who likes fruity or ciders not too dry, it’s a good choice.

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