I love Bridgetown and have visited the town perhaps ten times in the last four years. The small valley settlement is a two-and-a-half hour’s drive from Perth and is best known for two things: being one of the prettiest towns in WA’s south-west, and for hosting Blues at Bridgetown – the state’s largest blues music festival. The historical and well preserved town centre is undoubtedly charming and the blues festival is lots of fun, but neither can adequately explain the frequency of my visits.
Nestled away in the outskirts of Bridgetown is The Cidery – a pub, boutique drinks producer and primary contributor to my Bridgetown addiction. Their ciders are a revelation to anyone accustomed to the vaguely fruity flavours of big name, mass produced cider. The Cidery uses only 100 per cent pressed Pink Lady apples and champagne yeast to produce their Scudamore’s Scrumpy, Spider Cider, Sweet Rosie and non-alcoholic ciders. All are wonderful, but my favourite is the Sweet Rosie, which possesses all the sweetness and fruit flavour of a fresh Pink Lady apple.
Beer lovers need not fear. As well as their range of ciders, apples juices and ‘bottla’ wines in 330mL bottles, The Cidery has six traditionally brewed beers on offer. These are produced under the name of Blackwood Valley Brewing Company and are available on tap and, as of recently, in 10.3 litre takeaway mini kegs.
While cider remains their core business, The Cidery’s beers have certainly grabbed their share of attention. In 2007, Blackwood Stout Porter took out the Judges Trophy for the Best Western Australian Beer at the inaugural Perth Royal Beer Show. The Cidery was one of the most successful small brewers exhibiting at the show, also winning a silver medal for its Blackwood Bitter and a bronze medal for its Blackwood Irish Red Ale – the highest awards in these classes. Remarkably this was the first time that brewer, Mark Hollett, had entered any of The Cidery’s beers in competition. The accolades didn’t stop there, with Blackwood Stout Porter being named Champion Stout at the 2009 Australian International Beer Awards.
My most recent visit to The Cidery was on a quiet weekday afternoon, en route to an appointment further south. Pulling up in the familiar red dirt carpark, I felt grateful that my travelling partner had agreed to do the rest of the day’s driving. There is a reason why Bridgetown is known to locals as ‘Fridgetown’ in winter, so with the beer garden out of the question, we grabbed a pew on a comfy sofa next to a roaring wood fire.
Free cider tastings are available from the handcrafted jarrah tasting bar, but this time I was here for the beer. Not wanting to miss out on anything, I opted for a $12 tasting tray, which had a small serving of each of the brewery’s six beers. Currently these are a Summer Ale (mid-strength pale ale), European Lager (Czech Pilsener), Special Bitter, Irish Red Ale, Nut Brown Ale and the coveted Stout Porter.
All are enjoyable, but unsurprisingly the Stout Porter is a standout. It’s a jet black beer with a creamy beige head, sporting a full palate of roasted coffee, chocolate and substantial malty sweetness, characteristic of its milk stout style. While weighing in at a modest 5.2%, this is a rich beer best suited to serving with hearty mains and desserts – it paired spectacularly well with a sticky date pudding and would surely be just as at-home with chocolate.
Very nearly as impressive is the Summer Ale. At just 3.5% alcohol it is a mid-strength with attitude, brewed as a pale ale and particularly well suited for enjoyment in warmer months. Amarillo hops provide a fresh citrus aroma and a long, satisfyingly bitter finish. The modest alcoholic content means this is a beer that can be consumed in volume. In this writer’s opinion, Blackwood Summer Ale sits comfortably alongside Rogers Beer and Murray’s Punch & Judy as one of Australia’s best session beers.
The Cidery is open for lunch every day, serving hot and cold dishes that can easily be paired with their beers and ciders. The Beef Porter Pie is made with MSA beef and Stout Porter, served on colcannon (Irish mash of potato and cabbage), which is best paired with the stout porter. Or try the Apple, Cheese and Onion Tart, made with Pink Lady apples and WA cheese, served with salad and beer battered chips – a cracking match with a Spider Cider.
A variety of local performers come to The Cidery on Friday evenings, when bar snacks can be purchased and the closing time is extended until 7:30pm. Come summer time a strong local crowd can be found cooling down in the shady beer garden, sharing jugs of cider and beer. The vibe is very much one of calm, relaxation and enjoyment of life’s simple pleasures.
The Cidery qualifies as a must-visit for any self respecting WA beer lover. I recommend it thoroughly.
Phone: (08) 9761 2204
43 Gifford Road
Bridgetown WA 6255