In England, cider isn't just for those fancy-boy celiacs. Cider drinking is the hard-driving, working-class national sport—although those six pints of snakebite do sometimes coincide with a game of kickball.

In the U.K.'s West Country especially, unfiltered, high-alcohol "scrumpy" cider flows like white lightning in West Virginia. There's a even a style of music, Scrumpy and Western, devoted entirely to the demon apple juice.


As CiderCon takes over Portland, Cider Riot will bring the West Country's greatest Scrumpy and Western band, Dorset's Skimmity Hitchers, to play at its cidery Feb. 5 (Cider Riot!, 807 NE Couch St., 662-8275. 8 pm. $5 cheap!)

Expect plenty of local cider, especially Cider Riot, and some very nonlocal cider, like Oliver's, Cranborne Chase, New Forest Traditional and Talbot Harris.

Anyway, we asked the Skimmity Hitchers' singer, Kevin "Tatty Smart" Davis, to explain some of that hip cider lingo they use in their songs.


A skimmity ride was something practiced in small villages around the West Country up until the late 19th century. It basically involved the ritual humiliation of wrongdoers in the community, to the accompaniment of drunkenness and "rough music." Essentially, this is also what happens at our shows, so the name chose us perfectly.

"Scrumpy and Western"

"A band called the Wurzels coined the phrase Scrumpy and Western for this genre of music in the 1960s, and brought cider songs out of the sheds and into the charts. S&W is basically a celebration of cider and the rich culture around it: getting drunk, eating cheese, swearing, farting and sleeping with members of one's family."

"Lyme Regis"

The Hitchers' song "Viva Lyme Regis," about a coastal town in Dorset, is sung to the tune of Elvis' Vegas hit.

"If Elvis had been to Lyme Regis, he'd still be alive today, happily running an ice-cream concession down near the harbor. It's a good life, some say. There's Jack Ratt scrumpy, some massive hills and a portion of chips with every meal that psychopathic seagulls try to steal."

"Black Rat"

"Black Rat is a flat, moreish cider that has been the ruin of many a teenager in the West Country. Many claim it has hallucinogenic and fertility properties. There is now also a fizzy, clear version on the market, which is an imposter and has none of these benefits—basically West Country snake oil."

"Whitey Hell"

"Whitey Hell is where someone goes after imbibing farmhouse scrumpy and weed in close proximity to one another. Both are very easily underestimated. Like a peyote experience, it is only for the true shaman. As the song says, "Why torture yourself, when either does as well?" Keep 'em separate, folks!"


"Generic, mass-marketed, fizzy, corporate rubbish that is as far from real scrumpy as you could imagine. In the West Country, it is served to children as a 'training cider.'"

Why you can't say the word "rabbits" in Portland, England:

"Portland is famous for its stone, and for centuries the main industry on this tiny, windswept rock has been quarrying. Rabbits dig tunnels, and quarry workers fear the effects of this. We've thought about pointing out that they would need to be bloody strong rabbits to dig through Portland stone, but people on "Fraggle Rock" are not to be messed with."

Other West Country terms Davis says might be useful:

"Skreach" (cider), "proper job" (anything extreme or extremely good), and—our favorite—"Kimberlin."

Quoth an 1864 issue of Harper's magazine:

"The Portlanders have a word for a man who does not belong to their island, but rather to the main-land, which, I think, will puzzle the etymologists for some time. They call such a man a Kimberlin!