The Old Cider House Blog

Bed and breakfast in Nether Stowey, Quantocks, Somerset

West Somerset Railway

Train arriving at Crowcombe Heathfield station

Train arriving at Crowcombe Heathfield station

In the slightly quieter months we like to spend some time doing the sort of things that our guests do when they stay with us here at The Old Cider House in the Quantock Hills.

Today we went on the West Somerset Railway from Bishops Lydeard to Watchet. This is just a short drive away over the Quantocks and is the UK’s longest heritage railway going all the way to Minehead.

The ride takes us through some beautiful scenery and gives a wonderful view of the Quantocks to the north and Brendons to the south with Exmoor in the distance.

Tickets please

Tickets please

We planned to hop off at Watchet to see the Contains Art exhibitions – galleries in large storage continuers and the museum. We also popped into a few of the town’s hostelries including the Esplanade Club (Somerset CAMRA’s club of the year and Pebbles Bar, CAMRA’s cider bar of the year).

We rounded our trip off with a pasty, sitting in the sun overlooking the harbour before getting back on the train home.

We can’t think of a better way of spending a day in Somerset.

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Somerset Hop Picking

Somerset Hop Picking

Somerset Hop Picking

For the past few years the Stowey Brewery has been growing its own hops in order to make what are known as ‘green hopped’ beers for the autumn. These beers are slightly ‘fresher’ and lighter than traditional bitters and are a cross between a summer ale and a more recognisable standard real ale.

The hop flowers were harvested by Ian in the third week of September and, coming from Kent felt completely natural, especially as they were East Kent Goldings. However, given that these are home grown, little is known about how strong they are and, in turn, how bitter they will make the finished product. Therefore the whole process is a little hit and miss.

DSCF2607Ian went for the standard imperial measure of ‘one Sainsbury’s carrier bag’ full which came to 750 grams to make 50 litres of craft real ale and this is now in the fermenter together with a handful of fresh hops thrown in to give the beer a hoppy aroma.

The beer should be ready for the first week in November when The Old Cider House will be holding a Nouvale Beerjolais week (Sunday, 2nd – Saturday 8th November) for all guests. To book a room and your free tasting just give us a call on 01278 732228 and mention the beer.

The Old Cider House and Stowey Brewery

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Ian and the Stowey Brewery on the Longest Day (21.06.14)

This weekend saw us here at The Old Cider House working hard at any number events in and around Nether Stowey and the Quantocks promoting both the area and local beer.

Lynne and Ozy from the Stowey Brewery at Cricketer Farm

Lynne and Ozy from the Stowey Brewery at Cricketer Farm

On Friday Ian spent his day on the back of a very noisy and uncomfortable tractor trailer giving a running commentary to groups of cider and stream train enthusiasts travelling back and forth over the Quantocks. The day was perfect with stops at Dead Woman’s Ditch to talk about the Quantock Hills; its geography and history.

On Saturday, we had a stall at the Cricketer Farm Cheese, Cider and Moozic Festival providing a range of Stowey Brewery beers as an alternative to the cider – yes, some people prefer ale!

In the evening, we had been asked to produce an eighteenth century porter for Lyrics on the Lawn at Coleridge Cottage. Another perfect evening.

All of these events appear on our most recent audioblog

Until next time…

 

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The Smell of the Quantocks!

Breathe that salty ozone of Exmoor!

Breathe that salty ozone of Exmoor!

What, you didn’t think the Quantocks had a smell? Well, Exmoor (the Quantocks’ bigger cousin) does!

Exmoor is just down the road from us, but we’re not sure we’ve ever noticed it had a particular aroma. That is until watching the telly the other night when there was an advert for new Air Wick ‘National Parks Inspired’ range of air fresheners.

“We’ve got to have some of that” we said, and on our next trip to Sainsburys searched out the ‘Smell of Exmoor’. And there it was – Air Wick’s Crystal Air – Exmoor. We could have had Yorkshire Dales or Peak District, New Forest or even Brecon Beacons – but Exmoor was for us.

Imagine the excitement – What would it smell like? The marketing promised ‘a fresh ocean breeze sweeping across dramatic sea cliffs’. Would we get the spray and the tang of salty sea minerals…

Well, it’s not unpleasant, it reminds us of peppermint tea with floral overtones and it’s keeping the office nice and fresh.

So, what do the Quantocks smell like?

14.04.04 Enter our CompetitionHere’s the challenge – Think about what aromas represent the bouquet of the Quantock Hills and enter our fun competition. And the prize? A night’s dinner, bed and breakfast here at The Old Cider House and we’ll get the perfume of the Quantock Hills created (somehow!). Click on the box to the right to enter >>>>

Send us your ideas by Friday 25th April and don’t forget to follow future blogs using the ‘follow this blog’ box and button.

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Trip Advisor

Some B&B’s dislike Trip Advisor, complaining that it does not give an accurate reflection of a property and that reviews are made up.

Thank you to all our guests

Thank you to all our guests

As far as we are concerned, the site gives an accurate reflection of our property and what we do. It also allows guests to report any niggles and, in turn, allows us to do something about them. Also, Trip Advisor are very strict about who places reviews and monitor all new additions to make sure that they are genuine. Having said that, our two ‘poor’ reviews came from people that did not actually stay with us!

We’ve just spent a little bit of time responding to the latest reviews, thanking those who have said nice things and noting down any matters that need attending to.

Here are some of the nice things people have said recently (the last four in fact):

“Breakfast was amazing! Especially the vegetarian one, which included a cheesy, sunflower seed muffin”  March 2014

“Lynne and Ian were both very welcoming and helpful. All in all, a really great weekend” February 2014

“If you’re looking for a B&B in or around Nether Stowey, then look no further. Lynne and Ian were very welco

ming and the place itself was clean and well kept. The complimentary sherry in the room was a lovely surprise after a long drive down from London. The breakfast was excellent and set us up for the day quite nicely” February 2014

“Our hosts made us feel at home from the first phone call. We booked an evening meal which was very tasty and they were interesting to talk with but never `pushy’ so it was a really pleasant evening. Large, comfortable room (and bed) and good breakfast. What more do you want?”  February 2014

Thank you to everyone who took the time to review us on Trip Advisor.

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Brewery Workshops

It’s Saturday and our next group of brewers have arrived for our tutored brewery workshop here at the Stowey Brewery. Whether you are a keen home brewer or are thinking about setting up your own micro, nano or even smaller brewery, these courses are just so much fun!

Just two brewers today – meaning that there is loads of hand’s on brewing – weighing, mashing, stirring, measuring – in fact everything that you would expect on a brewery course, but don’t take our word for it – we filmed it!

Check out our YouTube video at http://youtu.be/fkfnAaEfG68 or watch below.

If you want to brew, look out for our next break (check out http://www.4ale.co.uk) or get together a group of like minded brewers (four is a good number) and make up your own brewery party. There’s even things for ‘other halves’ and spouses to do.

Just give us a call on 01278 732228 to book your place.

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Snowdrop Valley – Worth a Visit

During February Exmoor sees a beautiful natural phenomenon – the blooming of thousands of snowdrops in ‘Snowdrop Valley’ and, as we’re only a short car journey away, we thought we’d go and have a look.

The Valley is close to the village of Wheddon Cross, just inland from Dunster and Minehead, both worth a visit in their own right, but today we only have one destination in mind…

We decided to walk down to the Valley with Ozy – however there’s also a park and ride scheme run by the local council and Exmoor National Park Authority getting yo down to the valley bottom in a few minutes.

The West Somerset Railway also run a “Snowdrops and Steam” tour with the added excitement of travelling on the UK’s longest heritage railway line.

So – put a date in your diary for next February and come and visit us here at The Old Cider House which is only 30 minutes away from this fantastic spectacle.

Have a look at our video blog about our visit to the Valley last week.

Ian, Lynne & Ozy the Labrador

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We Cater for all Diets!

Like lots of people we know, we all overdid it a bit at Christmas and the pounds piled on – it was so easy to eat that box of Quality Street and dip into those nuts, however, we are now paying for it and need to shed a few pounds.

So, how to do it? Well our cleaner, Katrina, is with Weightwatchers and I decided that I would try the scientific approach and follow Dr Michaels Mosley’s ‘Fast Diet’ or the ‘5:2 Diet’, involving intermittent fasting. This all sounded a bit frightening, but seemed to make sense.

Yummy Low Cal Breakfast at The Old Cider House

Breakfast at <100 calories!

Basically, it boils down to spending two days a week eating less – that’s about it. So, on a couple of weekdays I pause my normal diet of fantastic fresh West Country foodstuffs and eat less, which normally means a smaller breakfast and dinner and skipping lunch. However, these two days have proved great fun as they give us the opportunity to experiment with dishes that we wouldn’t normally cook.

Today I’ve had a large bowl of blueberries, strawberries and half a banana (delicious) for breakfast (<100 calories) and tonight a rocket, cottage cheese and smoked salmon salad with fresh beetroot from the garden (<350 calories). I can even have a small orange for pudding.

To tell you the truth, I haven’t noticed any rumbling tummies and the only difference is that I am six pounds lighter in a three weeks.

So, why am I writing this?

Smoked salmon, beetroot, cottage cheese salad - delicious

Smoked salmon, beetroot, cottage cheese salad – delicious

Well, there must be loads of you out there who want to eat sensibly for the next few months (and to continue thereafter) so why don’t we help you by producing menus that allow you to have a lovely few days away AND keep up with your sensible eating regime?

Just let us know that you want a reduced calorie meal and we’ll work with you to ensure you get all the fresh local produce Somerset and the West Country has to offer – but with less calories.

Here are a few of the menus we’ve tried over the past few weeks (all less than 600 calories a day):

  • Dinner – poached salmon, grilled tomatoes and green beans and raspberry compote, breakfast – two poached eggs (super fresh from the girls at the end of the garden) on a slice of wholemeal home-made toast.
  • Dinner – roast Cornish mackerel with steamed green veg, breakfast – sausage, bacon and mushrooms.
  • Dinner – slices of West Country sirloin on a bed of herby leaves, breakfast – fresh fruit salad and a boiled egg.

Of course, just because you are eating sensibly – that doesn’t mean your other half can’t enjoy full English breakfasts or lashings of toast covered in butter and home made preserves.

In addition to eating healthily, we have the Quantock Hills on our doorstep, so you can get loads of exercise and go home lighter than when you arrived.

Dinner, bed and breakfast packages from £49 per person per night and we’ll even throw in our Quantock Walks booklet to get you out into those hills.

To book give Ian or Lynne a call on 01278 732228 or e-mail info@theoldciderhouse.co.uk

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Somerset Open for Business

You could be forgiven for thinking that Somerset is under water, having listened to this morning’s news. Yes, we have had our fair share of rain, but given that we are the ‘Summer People’ – the descendants of a people who understood that certain areas of the County were so low lying that they habitually flooded during the winter, then we know how to cope.

So here’s our top 10 ‘things to do’ when it’s wet outside:

Up the the Quantock Hills last week

Up on the the Quantock Hills last week

1              Get onto higher ground. Somerset boasts four ranges of hills; Exmoor, the Mendips, the Blackdowns and where we live, the Quantocks – the latter three being Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Then there are the Poldens and Brendons. All of these have spectacular views across the County. So, get those boots on and get walking.

2              Visit a cider farm. We are famous for our West Country cider and most of the farms have facilities for visitors. Plenty to choose from, try Riches Farmhouse Cider  as one picked out at random.

3              Taunton Museum is an educational way to spend a few hours. See the Frome Hoard, the largest collection of Roman coins ever discovered in Britain in a single container – oh and it’s free.

4              Take a train on the West Somerset Railway. Relive the age of steam on the longest standard gauge heritage railway in the United Kingdom.

5              Go east and visit the ancient Roman city of Bath – a World Heritage site – and get wet in comfort.

6              Like cheese Gromit? Try Cheddar Gorge  for a day out with its spectacular 450ft cliffs. It’s dry inside and they allow dogs.

7              Dunster Castle dominates the skyline on the Bristol Channel coast and is the lavish country home of the Luttrell family, who lived here for 600 years.

8              Get into the Levels by visiting Musgrove Willows, Somerset’s leading willow growers and producers. You might just want to give them a quick call to make sure they’re open!

Weston Pier

Weston Pier

9              Walk along the Grand Pier at Weston-super-Mare. Newly refurbished after a devastating fire a few years back. Have fish and chips out of the paper and pop a few coins into the slot machines.

10           Get to the top of Glastonbury Tor. From here you get spectacular views over the Levels and can look back in history to perhaps how the area looked a millennium or two ago.

All of the above attractions are easily accessible from The Old Cider House and you will probably need a few days to see all these sites – So why not take advantage of our 3 for 2 offer? Stay for two nights Sunday through to Wednesday and get a third free.

IF YOU CAN THINK OF OTHER PLACES TO VISIT USE THE COMMENT BOX BELOW

See you all soon,

Lynne, Ian & Ozy the Labrador

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A French Real Ale!

From the Stowey Brewery, The Old Cider House, Nether Stowey.

The French prove they re on the right track

The French prove they’re on the right track

Having a small craft brewery means that we can make small amounts of beer that larger breweries could not commercially produce and we have been lucky enough to be able to source a reasonably new hop – Aramis – a French hop supposedly with  ‘sweet, spicy notes, with hints of citrus and herbs’. Oh la la!

This weekend we’ve had a group of keen brewers in on one of our brewery workshops and we have just made an FPA – French Pale Ale, with the new hops, plenty of malt and a Belgian yeast. We’re hoping for a very hoppy but not too bitter beer with plenty of spice and that classic biere de garde/Belgian ale flavour. We’ll let you know how this turns out. Hopefully, it will be ready for Valentine’s Day in in the pubs.

Keen participants on our Brewery Workshop

Keen participants on our Brewery Workshop

We’ve just shipped out our latest brew to the local pub. This is a hoppy American style pale ale made with Simcoe hops. These hops promise a passion fruit, apricot and intense pine flavour and on tasting this is a stunner! For any of you who have been to the US, you will know that the Americans have been miles ahead of us Brits when it comes to producing craft ales and we’ve got a way to go to catch up with them – but we’ll get there!

Future beers ready to go to the pubs are; a  green hopped beer made with our own hops and a Polish pale – yes, you heard us right a Polish inspired pale ale. Watch this space…

We run frequent brewery workshops from The Old Cider House. Have a look at our site for further information and we have a good supply of ales for our guests to sample when they stay with us at The Old Cider House

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