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28 October 2014

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Remember Brother John at cider time

A very tempting tipple

As good Devonian residents, a drop or two of sweet cider will probably have passed our lips at one time, but the legend of its invention has a satanic twist.

Hands up who's taken a swig of rough Devonian cider and felt like they nibbled a lemon?

As blasphemous as it may sound to complain about good old scrumpy, it can be a little sharp on the palate.

This is why the monks at Tavistock Abbey decided enough was enough and started to make sweet cider.

Back in the early days the only way to make sweet cider was to mix it with a small amount of wine in a cask.

This was before the days of nipping to the local off license and picking up a carton of wine from a remote place you've never heard of though, and the process was becoming a little pricey.

In order to make sure there was enough of the good stuff for festivals, but preferably while keeping the Abbey coffers in one piece, the Abbot began a competition to find which monk could invent a way of making sweet cider without wine.

Into the breach stepped Brother John, a hardy monk who was fond of a tipple or two.

Tavistock Abbey

Tavistock Abbey is still standing

He swore he'd get sweet cider without wine or die trying, well, maybe not die but certainly get very drunk trying.

It was around the time John started his alcoholic mission that the Abbey got a new helper, a short eager little man who was happy to do anything and slept in a wine cask at the end of the day.

One night while Brother John was working on his concoction the old helper, actually the Devil in disguise, appeared and whispered temptations in Brother John's ear, all sorts of help if he sold his soul for the sake of making sweet cider.

John refused to give in to temptation and the old guy snuck back to his cask and fell asleep, which is where the martial monk grabbed his opportunity.

With the satanic one in the cask John sealed it up and started pouring in cider to drown him, waking up the trapped Devil and irritating him more than a little.

The Devil went mad, fuming in the barrel and boiling the cider around him, eventually vanishing back to Hell.

When John opened the cask he discovered two things, a lingering smell of brimstone and a cask full of sweet cider.

From then on, according to legend, any time sweet cider was needed it was poured over sulphur, bringing about the nickname of 'matched' cider, meaning cider made with the same material as matches were at that time.

last updated: 25/01/2008 at 12:15
created: 20/12/2005

You are in: Devon > Discover Devon > Devon Myths and Legends > A very tempting tipple

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