Over the years I have suffered much ridicule over my choice of pre-Wolves match tipple. To start with, back in 1987, I opted for vodka and lemonade, which made proud men of the West Midlands spit into their pints of beer and mild in disgust. I was deemed effeminate for my drinking shorts and not a real man in any way, shape or form. A slander that my choice of clothes also failed to put right.
Desperate to gain acceptance I switched drink to another short – Southern Comfort. Again, my choice was sneered at, despite its advantages – as it was a short I never missed a live Wolves goal at the match due to constant piss breaks. Despite this, the muttering about my sexuality continued.
So, fed up at the comments I was receiving from my peers, I rebelled and went through a short phase of guzzling down peach schnapps; I guess because it fitted in well with my love of German punk. However, after a humiliating trip to a Swindon boozer, where long-term mate, Neil Kirk, asked the bartender for “six pints of lager and a peach schnapps for the lady,” I knew I had to make a stand.
I duly switched to cider.
At long last I had found my natural life partner; it was fruity, it was strong, it was joy from the earth for an old punk like me. At first I was conservative, drinking only well-known brands such as Strongbow and Dry Blackthorn, swallowing 6 or 7 pints of the sweet drink before matches – and a couple after the final whistle. However, the taste I was developing for the original and best Alco-pop was luring me into the behind the counter stuff – the cloudy, paint stripper cider kept in keg barrels and only brought out for Wurzel type regulars.
I remember a night match in Plymouth and a dingy boozer after the game. Thirsty for a cider after a disappointing 1-0 defeat I asked for a pint “from the black keg over the back there.” The bartender, a man with a large beard and disapproving expression said “I don’t think so sir, that is strong, cloudy cider. You stick to the simple stuff.” Put out by this rejection, and eager to impress my mates, I answered “No thank you, I will try a pint of it please.” The bartender sighed to himself and whispered back “As you wish sir,” and duly pulled me a pint.
The next day I woke up with the memory of the trip home a complete blur and a mouth that tasted like pig sweat.
I was hooked for life.
Wolverhampton used to have a great range of pubs, where spit and sawdust genuinely mixed on the floor with the residue of mouldy pork scratchings – the mess invariably sticking to ones’ shoe. It also had some killer ciders. I always remember the Hogs Head and a cider called Farmhouse, a lovely drink that was somewhat off-putting as it was bright orange – leading to some serious bowel movements the next day in the Smith household. A couple of pints of this and I was seriously gone.
Mind you, it had its southern counterpart: Old Rosie, a 7.5% cloudy cider that took no prisoners. I used to end up in the Weatherspoons whenever we played Palace away drinking this macho drink. Unfortunately it had the tendency to make me incoherent and dribble down my chin, so eventually I had to knock it on the head when out and about. I still have the odd one these days out of respect to its memory but I normally stop after one or two – although our forthcoming trip to Palace this season may see me revert to type.
I don’t know what it is with me, but whenever I see a new cider on the supermarket shelves or in the pub, I just have to try it. I reckon I must have had at least 150 different ciders over the years with some leaving a lasting impression both on my memory and my toilet bowl.
In case anyone is interested, my favourite cider has to be Red Rock Cider. This was much publicised over here in England by a series of Leslie Nielsen adverts, back in the 1980s. A truly lovely drink, I used to buy 8 cans of this from Budgens every time I walked home to my house from Enfield after a Wolves match.
On the flip side, the worst cider has to be Woodpecker. I once had to endure 4 pints of this at a Rotherham social club, when at a Wolves away game, as it was the only apple based drink at the bar. To this day I get upset when I see stacks of this sweet, sugary cider at the local supermarket. Avoid like the plague unless you are 13 and trying cider for the first time.*
Nowadays my mates still drink the mild and beer they have always done, only now I can look them in the eye and say that I too am a man. And I have the cider belly to prove it.
*Junk Archive is not advocating under-age drinking. This is just a word of advice to the kids of today to try something a bit stronger if they get the urge – like lemonade.