It’s 10.30 on a bright Autumn morning and I’m feeling a bit pissed. Can’t say my normal elevenses are a half pint of pure Somerset cider but this is Wilkins Cider Farm, possibly the oldest and most revered in the West Country, so it would be rude not to.
Roger Wilkins managed to keep his spit and sawdust farm in Mudgely under the radar for a quarter century or so but then Jamie Oliver came along and did his unearthing the artisan thing and there’s been a stream of well-heeled foodheads rocking up to sample his apple brew ever since. Not that Roger’s complaining, well, not about that anyway. He hasn’t changed the premises to suit the newly urbanite clientele either. You’ll find Wilkins Cider Farm at the end of a long, winding, muddy lane. Turn into a scrubby farmyard with chickens scuttling about and ancient looking machinery dotted here and there and yep, you’ve arrived. There’s a few tables and benches outside, a bucket full of cigarette butts and as much cider and cheese (unpasteurised cheddar to knock your socks off) as you could wish for. It’s Somerset, it's utterly old school and there's probably nowhere better for a sun and cider soaked afternoon. The point is Roger Wilkins is the real deal. Cider has been made on this farm for around 1000 years, originally as payment to workers ‘until the wives got sick of their men coming home pissed every Friday.’ The cider is still made according to traditional methods via some fairly antiquated looking machinery and is so pure it must be drunk within a week.
I asked Roger about the cider pressing process and he stomped off to return with what he called 'the Grockles book.' 'Here you are,' he says opening up the book to reveal a photo of a tree studded with red-cheeked apples. ‘Apples grow in trees,’ he begins. I’m guessing it goes down a storm with the Americans. Really all you want is for Roger to pour you a half of dry, sweet or what most people opt for ‘half and half,’ cider. It’s insanely delicious, even at 10 in the morning. And what a kick, quarter of a pint down and I can't remember feeling so ecstatic since the 90s. You can order in 5, 10 or 20 litre flagons. Guaranteed to get the party going.