Take a scenic drive through our patch of the West Country and it won’t be long before you come across a farm shop. Pull in and, whether it’s a rural version of a supermarket or small shed with a smattering of muddy produce, the chances are it’ll contain a least a couple of barrels of local cider.
On a day out last weekend I snuck over the Somerset border into Wiltshire where I chanced upon one such shack, with free range chickens clucking in the car park and the whiff of manure wafting over the hedge. The shop was small but well stocked, with a fridge of meat, a few boxes of veg and shelves stacked with pre-packed local produce. And sure enough, sharing the counter with boxes of those chickens’ eggs, and a solitary offering from the resident goose, were the obligatory barrels of local scrumpy. But something else immediately grabbed my attention: next to the cider were two casks of draft beer.
Seeing my eyes light up the shop manager offered me a taste. Both casks were from Wessex Brewery, based not far away in Warminster, and were both decent brews. (He then tried to move me on to the stronger cider, but I was driving and feared his measures were a little too generous.) I asked him to fill me up a two-pint container of ‘Longleat Pride’ to go with my half dozen eggs as an evening treat. “Make sure you write the beer name on the bottle” I asked, knowing there was a strong chance of me forgetting the name of the beer. He told me he could do better than that, unfurling a pre-printed sticker to paste on the outside, albeit with the beer spelt incorrectly.
Longleat Pride turned out to be a great beer choice at the end of a leisurely day of fresh air and sunshine. Light and refreshing it’s the epitome of a session beer and my plastic container was soon drained. It’s a very English styled beer – light brown, with a decent level of maltiness, a prominent but not overpowering bitterness and a dry finish. Among the flavours I’m sure I detected notes of summer grass, gently scorching under the hot sun, with a savoury saltiness luring me in to another, and another, swig. But that might just be that late spring sunshine going to my head…
It’s a rare pleasure to be able to drink quality cask conditioned ale in the comforts of your own home, causing me to wonder why beer barrels aren’t a more common feature of local farm shops. It might be that cider takes precedent round here, although I don’t recall seeing draft beer mixing with pork chops and freshly dug turnips in other parts of the country. Freshness might be a concern for some beer buffs, but that doesn’t matter if you’re drinking it soon after purchase. And at just £1.40 for a fresh, thirst quenching pint I’m hoping a few more farm shops take up the idea.
Brewery: Wessex Brewery, Warminster, Wiltshire
Beer name:Longleat Pride Longleat Pride