2018 Ciders #7: Hand Brake

So yesterday in the pub, I got Non-Dry February started with a pint of Hand Brake, another cider from the Rosie’s Pig line (like Flat Tyre).

Hand Brake cider logo
The Hand Brake tap in the pub. It was nice and quiet so there was nobody around to give me weird looks for taking photos of the bar equipment.

Like its stablemate (applemate? brewerymate?), Hand Brake is a pretty pinky-red colour.  The label says it’s damson-flavoured, but it tasted more like raspberries to me.

Pint of Hand Brake
My pint of Hand Brake. It’s a slightly deeper red than the rhubarb-pink of Flat Tyre.

It’s a nice flavoured pint, but I’d say Flat Tyre has the edge for me – the rhubarb is just a bit more interesting.  I wouldn’t be disappointed to find either on tap in a pub in future though!

Reflections on Dry January

Because it’s currently one of those weird transition times in life for me (everything is in flux due to the house move), January has sort of both flown and dragged at the same time.  Not drinking for the month has been a lot easier than expected, but it’s felt different than expected, too.

Last time I went for a substantial period of time without alcohol (Lent 2011), I spent the whole time being irritated that I couldn’t drink when I was out or visiting people, making sure to try as many alcohol-free versions of beer and cider as I could find, and impatiently counting down the days till Easter, when I would be able to drink again.  This time round has been a completely different experience, and I suppose that’s partly because my life has changed a lot without me realising.  I don’t go out to pubs or round to people’s houses anywhere near as much as I did in my mid-20s, mostly because I’ve relocated twice in the intervening period and have maintained a much more pared-down social life than when I lived in my hometown.  As such, I’ve only been out once in January (post-birthday, that is), to a dinner party, and I found I didn’t miss drinking while socialising at all.  I’ve had no interest in alcohol-free fake booze, either – this is mainly due to being on Slimming World, as fake booze would just amount to useless extra syns when I’ve got perfectly good syn-free fizzy flavoured water to drink.

The biggest difference, though, is that I’ve not been itching to get back to drinking again, or really missing it much at all.  I think there are a few reasons for this:

1. Not drinking is actually a more stable thing for me in terms of stress/anxiety levels

Obviously, it’s an extra-stressful time at the moment, and usually I’d deal with that by having a few ciders in the evening.  What I found over Christmas, though, was that drinking was actually leading to more stress and anxiety the next day, which was the main reason I decided to give Dry January a try.  While it’s sometimes felt a bit frugal/miserable to be spending weekend evenings without a drink, on the whole I think not drinking has been better for my mental state.

2. I feel healthier

Over Christmas, having even a couple of drinks every night, coupled with all the extra food I was eating, was making me feel ill.  It’s nice to have avoided that sluggish/bloated/hungover feeling for a while.

3. My evenings have been more productive

I started the year with a lot of New Year Resolutions, mostly pertaining to daily habits like writing and keeping up with hobbies, and I’m pleased to say that I’ve been sticking to them.  It’ll be interesting to see if this feels harder on an evening when I’m drinking alcohol.

4. I’m not doing the ‘was I drunk when I did/said that?’ dance

Well, that’s not quite true – I have caught myself doing it a few times, and then realised I couldn’t possibly have been drunk, because I’ve not drunk alcohol all month, obviously.  This has been a) eye-opening – I’m surprising myself with the things that I assume I must have been drunk to have done/said (e.g. not actually remembering doing household chores that I have done – I was surprised to find that sometimes ‘not remembering’ is due to distraction/tiredness rather than alcohol use!) and b) alarming – it’s really made me realise how much mental energy I waste on trying to ascertain what state of intoxication I was in at any given time.  And this is with my current ‘normal’ intake of about 10-15 units a week – I dread to think what it was doing to my mental state pre-Slimming World, when ‘normal’ was closer to 40 units a week.

5. My Slimming World results have been killer

Obviously, as I’ve not had to spend my syns on alcohol, I’ve been free to use them for other things…but I’ve found that I’ve not been that bothered about the other things, meaning that rather than struggling to stay under the 105-syn weekly limit, I’ve been averaging a much more SW-friendly 70-80 syns per week, meaning that my weight loss is really speeding along at the moment.  This is definitely something I will be keeping in mind when I go back to drinking!

So, the original plan was to celebrate the start of Non-Dry February with a few of my birthday gift ciders after weigh-in tomorrow, but having realised that I’ve got a tattoo appointment the next day (which is starting to feel like the worst timed tattoo appointment of all time), I will be avoiding alcohol for an extra day so as not to thin my blood, meaning that I will be enjoying my ciders on Friday night instead, having gone exactly thirty days without a drink.  It’ll be nice, but this month has really made me think about my drinking going forward, and what I can do to keep an eye on it.

2018 Ciders #6: Flat Tyre

Another birthday cider!

Flat Tyre
Flat Tyre, with its lovely pinky rhubarb hue.

This one happened to be on draught at the pub on my birthday – they often get interesting ciders in – and I ended up having a couple, ’cause the rhubarb flavour was so nice.  I’d not had a pink cider since the strange beetroot one I discovered during the Wetherspoons summer cider festival of 2013; this one is a lot better.

Also, a kind friend brought me a can of the stuff (among other ciders) as a birthday present…

Flat Tyre can
I really like the design of the Flat Tyre can!

…which means I’ve got one all ready for Non-Dry February.  Looking forward to it!

2018 Ciders #5: Stowford Press

This is another one I had on my birthday.  Twenty days without a drink!  I don’t think I’ve gone sober for that long since the time I gave it up for Lent in 2011.

Stowford Press
Stowford Press, partially consumed before I remembered to take a picture.

I first discovered Stowford Press in 2006, in the pub in the Somerset village where my father-in-law and stepmother-in-law live.  I think at that point it was still particular to the area – maybe Westons hadn’t rolled it out nationally yet – but it soon became fairly ubiquitous, and nowadays you can get it anywhere there’s a good pub.  It’s probably one of my favourite draught pints; it’s slightly sweeter and lighter than Strongbow, so it goes down a bit easier.  My favourite local pub serves it, so this is another one I expect I’ll be drinking often this year.

2018 Ciders #4: Old Rosie

I was given a bottle of Old Rosie for Christmas, which I saved for when I got back from Edinburgh on my birthday.  Unfortunately I forgot to take a photo, but you can see what the bottle looks like on the Westons website.

Old Rosie is strong and it tastes strong.  I really like the taste in the winter though – it’s a nice kind of ‘stodgy’ cider, lovely and warming on a cold day.

Incidentally, I’m doing very well with Dry January, so I’m starting to forget what these ciders taste like!  I’ll probably be more up-to-date with my cider logging from February onwards.

2018 Ciders #3: Addlestones

This is another one I had on the 2nd, when I went for pre-birthday drinks with friends in Edinburgh, but as I’m doing Dry January (save the first three days!) I’m spreading these out throughout the month.

Addlestones Cloudy Cider
Addlestones Cloudy Cider.

I usually find Addlestones a bit dry for my taste, but on this particular evening it was quite welcome (especially as I was on the Diet Cokes otherwise, which I’m not madly keen on either).  Typically, though, I only drink it when it’s the only thing a pub has on draught, which is surprisingly often.

2018 Ciders #2: Magners Original

On Tuesday, I went out with the family to our favourite Italian restaurant in Edinburgh, the Bar Italia, where my mum and dad have been going since the ’70s.  The pizza there is great, but like most Italian restaurants, they don’t offer a huge deal of choice on the cider front, so a Magners it was.

Magners Original
Magners Original.

Magners is pretty ubiquitous so there’s not much to say about this one, other than the fact I expect I’ll be drinking it at lots of restaurants during 2018!

2018 Ciders #1: Thistly Cross Traditional

It’s probably fitting that my first proper post is about cider; I do drink a lot of the stuff.  I did originally think about doing a blog where I tried a new one every day for a year, but in recent years I’ve realised that I do need to have dry days most of the time.  Still, I’m going to review them here when I do drink them.

Thistly Cross Traditional
Thistly Cross Traditional. Apologies for the terrible photo!

I like pretty much all flavours of Thistly Cross, but some of them can be a bit heavy.  This is a nice, lighter option at 4.4% (the Original and Whisky Cask flavours are both over 6%, for comparison), so it was very welcome yesterday when I was starting to get that really sluggish, boozed-out feeling you have towards the end of the Christmas period.

Scotland isn’t typically known for cider production, but Thistly Cross is most definitely one of my favourite ciders.  Expect to see a few different flavours of this posted over the next wee while.