- Food & Drink
Until recently, the Inn on the Beach was Hayling Island’s Thunderdome. A place for late night drinking and a fight on the shingle. But new owners have taken it over, given it a lick of paint and there is ambitious talk of a fish restaurant. Where we will go for our fights now is anybody’s guess, but yesterday we could go to the Inn for a beer and cider festival.
Housemate Number 1, Sister Number 1 and I decided to take advantage of this festival and for some reason we started with cider. It’s probably a mistake to start any tasting session with cider, especially now outlets for violence have been reduced, but HN1 doesn’t really like beer and I was overcome with madness.
Cirrus Minor Cider
My first drink was a 5% summer cider made by Selborne’s Mr Whitehead’s Cider Company. It smelled of cider, by which I mean that it smelled of rubber and rotting apple blossom. It’s fresh at first but then, as I roll it around my mouth, it clings to the sides of my tongue, tasting sour, and ends with a dry, moisture sucking finish. This encourages me to drink more. The more I drink, the more fragrant and delicious it seems. This is how cider leads you into trouble.
SN1 went girlie and started with the Strawberry Cider (4.2%). A pretty, pale pink drink that smells of fizzy strawberry sweets. It tastes just like strawberry sweets too, and then there’s a sudden collapse of flavour. It completely vanishes, leaving you with a mouthful of strangely neutral liquid. “It’s like watery squash, but not as good,” says SN1. Not a hit.
Heart of Hampshire
HN1 does not mess around and went straight for the 6% Heart of Hampshire cider. It has a delicate floral smell and light, citrussy flavour with a tang of sourness. “It would be nice over ice,” HN1 says. A sparky cider that’s a pleasure to drink, but you’d never guess how strong it is. Approach with caution.
Ah, beer. In spite of the name, this ale (4.5%) is not brewed in Portsmouth but in across-the-water Gosport by Oakleaf. It’s a proper beer that smells like pubs before they banned smoking – rich and smoky and warming. It has a sweet, toasted flavour with a hint of coffee. My favourite drink from our tasting session.
SN1 cannot help herself and after starting with strawberry flavoured cider she goes for a 3.5% elder flower scented beer made by Bowmans. They claim it has no floral scent but it smells of lovely flowers to me. It’s light and easy drinking and we can’t register the bitter finish that it’s supposed to have. A beer for ladies and warm summer days.
Another Bowmans beer for SN1, this 4.5% bitter is seriously easy to knock back. Again, they claim it’s full of complex flavours but we can’t spot them (maybe we’re drunk). Instead, it seems a bit insipid until we hit a caramel tinge at the finish. Not a bad beer, but one for unthinking drinking.
I’m a Portsmouth girl and so my final drink had to be from Portsmouth brewers Irving. What a drink. I misread the description and for a moment believed that the ruby red hue comes from the addition of crystal meth (it’s crystal malt). It smells of cellars and damp earth and tastes like bark and dark forests and perhaps there was crystal meth in there because my notes are a bit weird. The roasted malt finish is delicious and HN1 surprises herself by liking it. I prefer Pompey Royal as a regular beer, but this 4.2% bitter has winter drink by a roaring log fire written all over it.