A Day in the Life: Cogges Manor Farm Beer and Cider Festival, Witney, Oxfordshire, UK

Cogges Manor Farm Beer & Cider Festival

Last week I was lucky enough to be part of the Cogges Manor Farm annual Beer & Cider festival, which helps to fundraise for the Cogges heritage trust. As I haven’t been to one before I was really excited to get the chance to help out alongside other volunteers and full time members of the team. Cogges have been holding their beer and cider festival around this time of year in the wheat barn for the last three years. This year the festival took place over two days, Friday 1st August and Saturday 2nd August, an over 18’s only event from 6.30pm to 11pm both evenings and a family fun day from 1pm to 5pm during the day on Saturday. Me and my mum signed up to volunteer on Friday night and Saturday daytime, so we could experience both the adult’s only evening event and the family day event.

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Friday 1st August

Our Friday evening started off with a pre festival meeting in the cafe before heading over to the wheat barn, which was separated into two main sections: The beer and cider stands on the left, a summer bar in the middle and the live music stage on the right. The barn was decorated modestly with fresh flowers and vegetables from the walled garden, along with vintage style bunting which really left the focus on how beautiful the barn is inside. The cobbled stone floor, large exposed beams and sound of doves cooing created a casual, relaxed atmosphere that I think worked really well for the event.

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A ticket for the festival cost £8 advance/£10 on the night, which included a Cogges glass etched half pint tankard, beer/cider guide programme, free first half pint and admittance for the night. Guests could then purchase a drinks voucher for £6 which was valid for four half pints, and meant we didn’t have to deal with any money throughout the night. One of the volunteers told me that last year the tankards had an image of the manor etched into them, while this year it was the Cogges ducks! As volunteers we were given a free tankard to take home, which was really nice and it meant we could test out a few of the beers and ciders ourselves 🙂

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All together there were 30 speciality beers and 15 ciders (with a range of seasonal and one off editions!) from a range of local breweries, within 30 miles of Cogges to try out. Along with the beers and ciders there was also fruity blackberry and elderflower pimms (Completely delicious) and wine available from the summer bar. We were stationed on one of the four ciders tables and ended up with five fruity ciders to help serve, including: Rabbit Foot Spasm Original and Muscle Mary Raspberry Blush from the Cotswold cider company, Apples and Pears, Blackberry Blush and Strawberry Cider from Millwhites.

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The most popular ciders from our table were Apples and Pears (My personal favourite!), Strawberry cider and The Rabbit Foot Spasm Original. The Rabbit Foot Spasm Original is a special adaptation of the No Brainer cider made especially for one of the bands playing – The Original Rabbit Foot Spasm band! They are an Oxfordshire based big band, known for their jump, blues and vintage jazz music. The cider proved very popular with fans of the band as well as the lead singer who told me he worked alongside the Cotswold cider company to help produce it. Fortunately our selection of fruit ciders were very popular throughout the night and we were kept busy pouring half pints while listening to the live music. As well as The Original Rabbit Foot Spasm band, The April Maze – an Australian/British troubadour duo and Wes Finch – an American folk/indie performer also kept the barn full of toe tapping, head turning music 🙂

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Outside the main barn there were also a selection of games, including Aunt sally, lawn croquet, giant chess and superhero wrestling, as well as a stand selling American style BBQ pulled pork or beef baps served with tangy coleslaw (Which definitely required a taste test… Safe to say they were delicious!!). Throughout the night I got to try out most of the ciders and a few of the beers, which was definitely useful when people asked for a recommendation. My favourite ciders were Millwhites Apples and Pears, Premium Run Cask and Muscle Mary Raspberry Blush as well as Thatchers Cheddar Valley. There was also a big selection of beers from several breweries, including: Hook Norton, Ramsbury and Wychwood. A bit later in the evening my dad decided to come along to try some beers and enjoy the live music with us. He is definitely more of a beer fan, so I got to help choose him some beers and try a little bit of them myself. Of the few beers I tried I really enjoyed Ramsbury Brewery’s Sunsplash and Sticky Wicket!

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Saturday 2nd August

Today started at 12.30pm, in preparation for opening at 1pm, again with a quick prep meeting. Afterwards we headed back over to the wheat barn, which was set up in a similar way to Friday, but with a bouncy castle replacing the stage on the right. We decided to go back to the cider stand, however as a few boxes of cider were empty from last night we moved the remaining boxes onto two tables. Unlike Friday night the atmosphere was a lot quieter, however we did manage to sell quite a few half pints of the ciders we had left, as well as some of the Cogges tankards. Along with the bouncy castle there was also story telling, superhero wrestling, giant chess and lawn croquet to enjoy. As well as all the normal weekend activities at Cogges there were also spinning and weaving demonstrations, candle holder making for WWI lights out and an Imperial War Museum print display in the manor house.

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I really enjoyed volunteering at the festival! It was great to try out the beers & ciders, listen to the live music while chatting to the other volunteers and visitors. As the weekend went on I learnt a lot more about the different breweries and ciders we were lucky enough to have, and being able to recommend ciders to visitors and them enjoy my recommendations was good fun! If you haven’t been to a beer & cider festival or Cogges Manor Farm before I would definitely recommend it. Hopefully I will be able to help out again next year 🙂

A Day in the Life…

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