The first Sunday of February and for an afternoon drink I get the urge to try somewhere different. Although it is a bit of a drive around we go to the Early Doors Cider and Ale Bar at Draycott on the road to Cheddar. It has been open for about 18 months but I have never passed at the right sort of time and it had not looked that tempting.
It certainly looks unusual. A metal clad industrial looking shed that used to hold a fruit stall / shop selling strawberries and vegetables. And from the outside it looks quite small. Actually when we stepped inside it was a very welcoming small bar with plenty of people sat on the limited number of tables. We did wonder about the slightly unusual aroma but that was just because a dog had managed to wag its tail briefly into the log burner that was manfully trying to heat the shed in the intense cold. In fact on an artic exploration to the loo I discovered a very pleasant looking lounge bar area out the back- but far too cold for today.
Despite it being a relatively new enterprise there were plenty of locals at the bar and around – many quite happy to chat and offer advice on choice of drinks – and ‘mine host’ Jason was definitely a lively character which helped build a really good atmosphere.
Of course I had mainly come for the cider but after a bit of experiment settled on an excellent, newly tapped cask of Yeovil Ales Stargazer one of three real ales on a rack behind the bar.
There was a wide choice of ciders but as I later discussed with Jason I was a bit under whelmed by the choice. For me a cider bar has the opportunity of supporting the many local artisan cider makers but here we had Somerset Tree Shaker and Somerset Snuffler, both from Shepton Cider Mills which although not bad ciders, I quite like the Snuffler, are made in the second biggest cider factory in the world in Shepton Mallet which is part of the same group as the horrendous Magners. It is made alongside many other leading industrial brands of cider. Then there was Ashton Press from the Long Ashton Cider Company – which is in fact part of Butcombe Brewery and made by Thatchers cider – the third or fourth biggest cider maker in the country. Again not bad stuff at all – but is this the right ethos? Though I certainly respect that anyone running a bar has to stock what they can sell.
There were local artisan ciders from Roger Wilkins, Rich’s and Hecks. They are all good local farmhouse producers, but about the most predictable selection available. And unfortunately two out of these three were being served from the 5 gallon plastic barrels you see on the bar. The sad thing about these barrels is that to get the cider out you have to let air in. The cider reacts to the air and begins to go off. After a week or so the cider takes on a distinct vinegary taste. I honestly believe the cider from this type of barrels on bars in pubs has done more to create a bad impression of farmhouse cider than any other single factor.
Especially as there is a great alternative in the modern 20 litre bag in box where as no air gets into the cider it can last for months without deteriorating. We once forgot about a box of rather acidic Bramely Apple Cider we had made. When we rediscovered it after a couple of years it had matured nicely!
Anyway – enough of this rant. The Early Doors was a wonderful discovery, well worth going to for a drink. I had a decent pint of Hecks medium cider which was the one local farmhouse cider they had in bag in box. I intend to visit again soon to see Jason, enjoy the atmosphere and the drink!