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Some years ago an idiot friend of mine suggested that we should go to Glastonbury for one last time, knowing that zimmer frames weren't going to work well in the mud. I won't go into the weekend in detail, needless to say that we both rediscovered our old 'Stairways to Heaven'. In my case it was a particularly scary, high velocity escalator. Oh, and we missed David Bowie, traditionally.
On the Monday morning we left our tent and its contents to the scavenger Orcs and oozed into the car and set off for the forty-something tranquillity of Mid-Wales.
Half an hour on the road and we realised it wasn't going to happen and decided to drop in on an old friend in Chipping Sodbury. We couldn't find her and ended up shuffling into the Portcullis Hotel. We needed alcoholic solace.
Asking for the strongest and cheapest form of emotional support we were steered to Moles Black Rat Cider.
Black Rat Cider is a West Country scrumpy and comes in two varieties; traditional and vintage. Traditional is cloudy and has an alcohol content of 6.0%. Vintage is much clearer and weighs in at a hefty 7.3%. They are both sold under the banner of Moles Brewery of Melksham in Wiltshire although are actually made under license by Thatchers of Somerset. Thatchers, incidentally, provide the base apple juice for the now trendy Magners.
There are two distinct scrumpy making areas in England; The West Country and Herefordshire. The scrumpies of these areas tend to be very different due to the apple growing conditions and the variety of apples used. General rule of thumb is that Somerset cider is sweeter and with a more pronounced taste of apples than its acidic macho cousin on the Welsh Borders. Both will scrumple the brain. So it is with Black Rat.
The traditional is cloudy, flat, a little acidic with a musty red apple taste. It's easy to drink (if you like that sort of thing) and isn't that strong for a traditional scrumpy.
The vintage is basically the same taste-wise but with a slight sparkle and much stronger, but dangerously, much easier to drink. It is clear and not so frightening to look at.
Moles Black Rat Cider is only really available on draught in the pubs around Avon, Somerset and Wiltshire. I have never seen it on sale in supermarkets or off-licences. I have enquired, however, and there is now a bottled form. I have tried to find an online site for Black Rat without success. I think those Somerset types want to keep it to themselves! Thatchers might be a better bet.
I am an enthusiastic scrumpy drinker and whenever I'm in that part of the world I partake of Black Rat. If you're not a lover of this type of thing or have never tried it out of fear, Black Rat is a good introduction, it being less harsh than a lot of scrumpies.
On that misty post Glastonbury day, my friend and I partook of many and spent the night in the car. We woke the next day as right as rain and crossed the Severn back to sanity and middle-age.